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Annals of Rural Bengal 

^\^r W. W. HUNTER, B.A., M.R.A.S. 




{/!// jRts^/iis Reserved.) 








Broomhill House, 
4//^ Afarc/i 1868. 

My Dear Sir Cecil, 

The forthcoming State Papers on the popularity 
and results of British rule in India, furnish a seasonable oppor- 
tunity for a work which portrays the state of the country when it 
passed under our care. These pages, however, have little to say 
touching the governing race. My business is with the people. 
To no one could such a volume be more fitly dedicated than 
to a statesman who, by the development of municipal institutions, 
by popular education, and by an enlightened respect for native 
rights, has laboured during more than thirty years to call forth 
that new life and national vigour which are now working among 
the rural multitudes of Bengal. 

I therefore inscribe it with your name. 

I am, 

Yours very sincerely, 





1765. The Emperor appoints the Company to the Fiscal 
Administration of Bengal. 

1765-72. The Company collects the revenues by native agents. 

1772-86. The Company's experimental efforts at rural admi- 
nistration by means of English officers. 

1786-90. Lord Cornwallis' Provisional System. 






The Absence of Rural Histor}', 
The Materials of Rural History, . 
The Functions of Rural History, 
The Sources and Scope of this Work, 







The Old System of Government under Native Princes, . 

It breaks down, and the Country passes under British Rule, 

Permanent Effects of the Great Famine of 1769-70, 

The Crops of 1769, 

Distress anticipated, but the Land-Tax raised, 

The Famine declares itself. 

One-third of the People perish, 

The Living feed upon the Dead, . 

The Desolation of Gour, . 

The December Harvest (1770) restores Plenty, 

But to a silent and deserted Province, 

Who was to blame ? . . . 

Character and Scale of Relief Measures, 

But such Measures always inadequate, . 

The Famine intensified by Interference with Private Enterprise 

Orissa isolated in 1866 ; Bengal isolated in 1770, 

The normal Effect of Famine in Bengal, 

The Specifics for Famine, 

The Ruin of the ancient Aristocracy, 1770, 












The Relations of Labour and Capital transposed, 1776, 

From 1770 to 1789 one-third of Bengal lies waste, 

Severe Revenue Measures, • • ,' .,jt^,* , ^ 

The Western Districts made over to Tigers and wild Elephants, 

Rural Industry at a stand, • • • ' 

Bengal in the Hands of Banditti, . 

The ' Debateable Land,' . • • • ' 

Beerbhoom in 1789 ; the Warding of the Passes, 

Bishenpore in 1789 ; the Hill-men burst through the Passes, 

The ancient Capital sacked by Banditti, . 

Estimate of Losses caused by their Devastations, 

Results of our first efforts to establish Order, 

The Western Frontier obtains Rest : its condition then and now, 








The Aryans and Aborigines, . • • • 

The Struggle for Life in Ancient India, . 

The Aryan Race, ..•••• 

Its Line of March through Bengal, 

Aryan Civihsation, as portrayed by Manu, a Local System, 

A rigid fourfold System of Caste unknown in Lower Bengal, 

The Five component Parts of the Population of Bengal, 

The primitive Children of the Soil, 

The Aryans and Aborigines contrasted ; first, as to Speech, 

Second, as to Colour, 

Third, as to Food, . 

Fourth, as to Religious Conceptions, 

Fifth, as to their Behef in Immortality, 

Aryan Funeral Rites, 

The Future Life described. 

Whence these Conceptions ? 

Aboriginal Funeral Rites, 

Influence of the Aborigines on the Aryans ; first, as to Speech, 126 

Second, as to Religion ; Demon-worship and Human Sacrifices, 127 

Siva and the Hindu Village Gods borrowed from Aborigines, 129, 194 

Third, Influence of the Aborigines on the Political Destiny and 

Character of the Indo-Aryans, . . • -136 

The Future of the Indian Races, .... 140 






The Black Races of Bengal, a new Field of Study, 

The Santal Tribes of Western Beerbhoom, 

Santal Traditions : the Creation, the Dispersion, etc., 

Analogies to the Mosaic and Aryan Accounts, . 

The Legend of the Creation rather a Legend of the Flood, 

Santal Pre-historic Reminiscences, 

Santal Speech, . . . . . ' 

The present Classification of Languages unscientific, 

The New Lights, ..... 

Santali examined by the New Lights : its Inflections, 

Its Place among Languages, 

The Confluence of Languages in Bengal, 

A Uniform Method for studying non-Aryan Speech, 

Roots common to Aryan and non-Aryan Speech, 

Santali Words in Prakrit, 

Prakrit Words in Santali, 

General Deductions concerning Santal Speech, 

Santal Religion, .... 

Family and Village Gods, 

Tribe Gods, .... 

The Race God, .... 

The Santal Trinity, 

Identity of the Santal Race God with the Hindu Siva 

The Hindu Family Gods, Village Gods, and Siva, borrowed 

from the Aborigines, ..... 
Connection between the Aboriginal Rites and Buddhism, 
Connection between the Aboriginal Rites and Modern Hin 

duism, ...... 

Caste unknown among the Santals ; the Seven Clans, 
The Six Great Ceremonies in a Santal's Life, 
Admission intothe" Family and into the Clan, . 
Admission into the Race, .... 

Union of his own Clan with another ; Weddings, 
The Santal faithful to one Wife ; Divorce, 
Dismission from the Race ; Santal Funeral Rites, 
The Santal's Conceptions of a Future State, 
Reunion of the Dead with the Fathers, . 
The Santal as a Cultivator and as a Hunter, 
Santal Sport, ..... 

Santal Agriculture, .... 







Santal Hospitality and Courtesy, . 

Santal Village Government, 

Frankness and Easy Decorum of the Santal Women 

Dance, • • ■ • ' 

The Santal's Aversion to Strangers, 
The Santals as Depredators, 
As Colonists and Day-labourers, . 
They migrate Northwards to Rajmahal, . 
They furnish the Sinews of English Enterprise in Bengal, 
Pressure of the Population in the East and the West, 
The Santal Colonists oppressed by Hindu Traders, 
Our Courts fail to give Redress, . 
The Santals, in Despair, fly to the Jungle, 
Hindu Usury develops Slavery, . 
English Capital renders Freedom profitable, 
The Santals grow restless ; Warnings and Portents, 
They collect in Armed Masses, . 
They break out in Rebellion, 
Martial Law delayed, . . . • 

Personal Narrative of the Rebellion, 
The RebeUion at its Height, 
Martial Law declared ; the Rebellion put down. 
The Wrongs of the Santals redressed. 
The Railway abolishes Slavery, 
The Hill- men migrate to the Tea Districts, 
The Perils of Ignorance, .... 
Statistics an indispensable Complement of Civilisation, 













Administration by ' Black Collectors,' 1765, . . .261 

The Supervisors, 1769-1772, ..... 263 

Hastings' Plan ; Period of Experiment and Error, 1772-1786, . 266 
Lord Cornwallis' Provisional System, 17 86- 1790, . . 267 

Cost and Character of Rural Administration, 1788 and 1864, . 269 
The Land-Tax and Excise before 1793, . . . .271 

Ancient Intemperance and present Sobriety of the Bengali, . 275 
The Temple-Tax, its History, and how levied, . . . 279 

The District Government Bank, ..... 287 
The Government Bank stops Payment, 1790, . . .289 

The Guarding of Treasure, . . . . .291 


State of the Rural Currency, 

Variety of Coins ; Inadequacy of the Coinage, 

The Mussulman System of a Single Circulating Medium 

The ideal Standard of Value, 

The Company's first Currency Reform, 1766, 

The Gold Coinage of 1766, its Failure, 

Permanent Drain on the Currency of Bengal, 

Currency Crisis, 1769, 

Gold Coinage of 1769, its Failure, 

History of the Currency, 1769-1789, 

Currency Reforms of 1790, 

Currency Crisis of 1790-gi, 

Final Triumph of the Reforms, 1794, 

The Frontier and Fiscal Police before 1792, 

The Rural Criminal Administration, 

A Regular Police formed, 1792, 

The Village Watch, its inherent Defects, . 

Mussulman Jail Discipline, 

The Rural Civil Courts, 1790 and 1864, . 

Natural Sources of Excessive Litigation in Bengal, 

The Character of Civil Justice before 1792, 

The recognised Functions of the Company, 1765-1792 







The District * Investment,' 
Little Centres of Rural Industry form, 
The Commercial Resident as a Labour-employer, 
As Magistrate and Judge, .... 
As a Private Speculator, .... 
The ' Adventurer,' Mr. Frushard, . 
His Misfortunes and Contests with the Collector, 
His ultimate Triumph, .... 
' Adventurers' and ' Interlopers,' their Legal Status, 
English Enterprise in Rural Bengal, 1789 and 1866, 
The Company as a Rural Administrator and Manufacturer, 
1765-1790, ....... 








The gradual Growth of the Company's Rural Government, . 369 
The true Fimction of the Indian Historian, . . -371 

The Rights of the People still unascertained, . . -372 

Analogy- of the Muhammadan Tenures in Turkey to those in 

Bengal, ...••••• 374 
Conclusion, . • • • ■ • -375 


A. Bengal in 1772, portrayed by Warren Hastings, 

B. The Great Famine of 1770, described by Eye-witnesses, 

C. The Cook's Chronicle of Beerbhoom, . 

D. The Pandit's Chronicle of Beerbhoom, 

E. The Pandit's Chronicle of Bishenpore, 

F. The Family Book of the Princes of Beerbhoom, 

G. Santal Traditions, ..... 
H. A Skeleton Santali Grammar, 

I. Santal Festivals, ..... 

K. A few Official Papers on the Santal Insurrection, 

L. Revenue and Cost of District Administration before the 

Permanent Settlement, .... 

M. Present Revenue and Cost of District Administration, 
N. List of Rupees, 1794, ..... 
O. The Coins in Use at Six Indian Ports, 1763, 







p. 63, line 26, for ' district,' read ' cultivated area.' 
P. 64, last line,/(-ir ' 1 14,482,' read ' 1 1 1,482.' 
P. 107, line 2, for ' Sareswata,' read ' Sarasvvati.' 
P. 1 36, line 20, for ' it,' ;-6'rt'(f ' they.' 

P. 139, line 21, y^r'has,' n'^Trt? ' have.' 

To facilitate reference certain letters are appended to quotations 
from manuscripts indicating where the originals may be found. The 
following are the contractions used : — 

I. O. R. . MS. Records (English), in the India Office, White- 

C. O. R. . MS. Records (English and Persian), in the Calcutta 

B. R. R. .MS. Revenue Records (Enghshand Persian), in the 
Beerbhoom Offices. 

B. J. R. . MS. Judicial Records (English, Persian, and Ben- 
gali), in the Beerbhoom Courts. 

B. D. A. . MS. Domestic Archives (Persian and Bengali) of 
the Rajahs, and other families, in Beerbhoom. 

Bn. R. .MS. Records (English and Persian), in the Burd- 
wan Courts and Offices. 

Bh. R. . MS. Records (English and Bengali), in the Ban- 
corah Courts and Offices. 

Be. D.A. . MS. Domestic Archives (Persian and Bengali) of 
the Rajah of Bishenpore. 

I. O. L. . MSS. and rare Tracts in the India Office Library. 

O. C. . . Ootaparah Collection, being a series of rare Tracts 
and Newspapers of the last century, belonging 
to Babu Jaikissen Mukarji of Ootaparah, in 





/^N the frontier of Lower Bengal, fifty miles 
^^^ west from the field of Plassy, are to be 
traced the landmarks of two ancient kingdoms. 
They lie along the intermediate country between 
the lofty plateau of Central India and the valley 
of the Ganges. The primeval force which had 
upheaved the interior table-land here spent itself 
on fragmentary ridges and long wavy downs. On 
the west rise the mountains, covered to the summit 
with masses of vegetation. Gorgeous creepers first 
wreathe with flowers, then strangle their parent 
stems, and finally bind together the living and the 
dead in one impenetrable thicket. Here and there 
an isolated hill with a flat top stands out like a 
fortress on the plains. From ravines, arched over 
with foliage, turbid cataracts leap down upon the 
valley, there to unite into rivers which, at one 
season of the year, pour along in volumes of water, 

VOL. I. A 


half a mile broad and twenty feet deep, and at 
another season, dwindle to silver threads amid wide 
expanses of sand. Over the uplands the jungle 
still holds its primitive reign, affording covert to 
wild beasts and cool glades for herds of cattle. In 
general the plains undulate gently eastward, dotted 
with fruit-bearing groves, enamelled with bright 
green rice fields, and studded with prosperous 
villages. The soil, although less fertile^ than the 
swamps of Eastern Bengal, returns in low-lying 
grounds two crops each year ; and the bracing 
atmosphere makes ample amends to the cultivator 
for the additional labour demanded by his fields. 
The forest yields a spontaneous wealth of timber, 
gums, and brilliant lac-dye ; the valleys produce 
the finest indigo ; cotton, jute, sugar-cane, oil-seeds, 
and cereals grow abundantly ; from the mulberry 
shrubs are still derived the silks that adorned the 
beauties of the imperial seraglio ; silver ore has 
been dug out of the mountains ; copper is found 
on their slopes ; small particles of gold have been 
washed from the river beds ; and the country has 
long been famous for its iron and coal. 

This well-watered land, rich in noble scenery,^ 

' ' A land of hill and dale, wood and water, abounding in scenery 
interesting to the geologist and lover of the picturesque. The climate 
also changes : the nights are cool and clear ; the damp and fog of 
Calcutta are left behind.'— The Grand Trunk Road, its Localities, 
p. 1 8. Pamphlet, 8vo. Calcutta. The same traveller somewhat 
loo enthusiastically calls the Beerbhoom highlands, ' the Switzerland 
of Bengal.' This and several other of the pamphlets by the Rev. 
James Long, subsequently quoted, appeared originally as articles in 
the Calcutta Review, 


and enjoying during five months of the year an 
exquisite climate, formed the theatre of one of the 
primitive struggles of Indian history. It stood as 
the outpost of the Sanskrit race on the west of 
Lower Bengal, and had to bear the sharp collisions 
of Aryan civilisation with the ruder types prevailing 
among the aborigines. On its inhabitants devolved, 
during three thousand years, the duty of holding 
the passes between the highlands and the valley of 
the Ganges, To this day they are a manlier race 
than their kinsmen of the plains, and from the 
beginning of history one of the two kingdoms has 
borne the name of Mala-bhumi, the Country of the 
Wrestlers, — the other the appellation of Vir-bhumi, 
the Hero Land. 

It is a matter of regret that an ethnical frontier 
which must have seen and suffered so much that 
would be interesting to mankind to know, should 
be without any record of the past. Every county, 
almost every parish, in England, has its annals ; but 
in India, vast provinces, greater in extent than the 
British Islands, have no individual history whatever. 
Districts that have furnished the sites of famous 
battles, or lain upon the routes of imperial pro- 
gresses, appear, indeed, for a moment in the general 
records of the country ; but before the eye has be- 
come familiar with their uncouth names, the narrative 
passes on, and they are forgotten. Nor are the 
inhabitants themselves very much better acquainted 
with the history of the country in which they live. 
Each field, indeed, has its annals. The crops which 


it has borne during the past century, the rent which 
it has paid, the occasions on which it has changed 
hands, the old standing disputes about its water- 
courses and landmarks, all these are treasured up 
with sufficient precision. But the bygone joys and 
sorrows of the district in general, its memorable 
vicissitudes, its remarkable men, the decline of old 
forms of industry and the rise of new, — in a word, all 
the weightier matters of rural history, are forgotten. 
Life wants the outdoor element which it possesses 
in so remarkable a degree in England. Men of the 
upper classes come less frequently into contact with 
each other ; caste and religious differences dwarf 
the growth of good fellowship and limit the inter- 
change of hospitalities ; and anything like society 
in the European sense of the word is prevented 
by the seclusion of the female sex. The strong 
county feeling which knits together the magnates 
of an Eng-lish shire has not had a chance of 
being developed among the landed gentry of 
India. Each house scrupulously preserves its 
own archives, but carefully conceals them from its 
neighbours. Indeed, it never strikes the listless, 
rich native, that what to him are dull contempo- 
raneous events will in time possess the interest of 
history ; nor are there any antiquarians to gather up 
such meagre records as vanity or selfishness may 
have framed. English history owes much of its 
value, and still more of its pathos, to the stores of 
private documents which the strong individuality of 
bygone Englishmen has left behind ; but in India, 


one rural generation dreams out its existence after 
another, and all are forgotten. 

Not many family archives of importance have 
passed into my hands. The Rajahs placed at my 
disposal a portion of the manuscripts in their dilapi- 
dated palaces ; the representatives of other dis- 
tinguished houses followed their example ; Pandits 
were employed to go about the country in order to 
gather materials for a history of each district from 
their own point of view ; and several native gentle- 
men co-operated with me In collecting the folk-lore. 
The result of these inquiries, however, was .too 
meagre and too unreliable for publication. But 
four years ago, in taking over charge of the District 
Treasury, I was struck with the appearance of an 
ancient press, which, from the state of Its padlocks, 
seemed not to have been opened for many years, 
and with whose contents none of the native officials 
was acquainted. On being broken open it was 
found to contain the early records of the district 
from within a year of the time that It passed 
directly under British rule. The volumes pre- 
sented every appearance of age and decay ; their 
yellow-stained margins were deeply eaten into by 
insects, their outer pages crumbled to pieces under 
the most tender handling, and of some the sole 
palpable remains were chips of paper mingled with 
the granular dust that white ants leave behind. 

Careful research has convinced me that these 
neglected heaps contain much that is worthy of 
being preserved. For what trustworthy account 


have we of the state of rural India at the com- 
mencement and during the early stages of our 
rule ? Eloquent and elaborate narratives have 
indeed been written of the British ascendency in 
the East ; but such narratives are records of the 
English Government, or biographies of the English 
Governors of India, not histories of the Indian 
people. The silent millions who bear our yoke 
have found no annalist.^ 

The only extensive investigations into the rural 
statistics of India are those conducted by the 
Survey Department, and no witness could give 
more telling evidence in proof of our ignorance 
than this, the single one we have to cite in our 
favour. The important parts of Bengal Proper, 
from an historical point of view, are unquestion- 
ably those that lie around the three cities which 
three successive races fixed upon as the head- 
quarters of their rule. The Origin and History 
of the district that has Calcutta for its capital are 
disposed of in rather more than one page, a con- 
siderable portion of which is taken up by a feeble 
account of the Black Hole, and the often narrated 
hostilities that ensued. The Origin and History 
of Moorshedabad, the ancient focus of Moslem 
magnificence, are dismissed with half a page ; and 
Maldah, the Hindu metropolis of Bengal, with its 

^ The author of ' The Grand Trunk Road, its Locahties' (p. i6), 
states that Vir-bhumi ' is quite unexplored,' This was written 
scarcely ten years ago of a district lying within one hundred miles of 
Calcutta, and only a five hours' railway journey from it. The extent 
of our information as to remoter provinces may be inferred. 


long line of kings, Its gigantic walls and arches, Its 
once stately palaces now the kennels of jackals, and 
the vast untenanted city which has been left stand- 
ing as a spectacle of desolation and warning to 
those who now are to India what Its builders once 
were, is treated as if It had been a sandbank which 
the river silted up last October, and will swallow 
down again next June. In a thin folio, not a single 
page has been devoted to Its history. 

This, too, with the richest and most authentic 
materials for rural history at our command. Valu- 
able private stores of documents are Indeed want- 
ing; but for their absence the abundance of official 
records makes ample amends. In the chief Govern- 
ment office of every district In Bengal are presses 
filled with papers similar to those I have described. 
They consist of reports, letters, minutes, judicial pro- 
ceedings, and relate. In the words of eye-witnesses 
and with official accuracy, the daily history of the 
country from the time the English took the admini- 
stration Into their own hands. Many of them are 
written in the curt forcible language which men use 
in moments of excitement or peril ; and in spite of 
the blunders of copyists and the ravages of decay, 
they have about them that air of real life which 
proceeds not from literary ability, but from the fact 
that their authors' minds were full of the subjects 
on which they wrote. We learn from these worm- 
eaten manuscripts that what we have been accus- 
tomed to regard as Indian history is a chronicle of 
events which hardly affected, and which were for 


the most part unknown to, the contemporary mass 
of the Indian people. On their discoloured pages 
the conspicuous vicissitudes and revolutions of the 
past century have left no trace. Dynasties struggled 
and fell, but the bulk of the people evinced neither 
sympathy nor surprise, nor did the pulse of village 
life in Benoral move a single beat faster for all the 
calamities and panic of the outside world. But 
these volumes, so silent on subjects about which we 
are already well informed, speak at length and with 
the utmost precision on matters regarding which the 
western world is profoundly ignorant. They depict 
in vivid colours the state of rural India when the 
sceptre departed from the Mussulman race. They 
disclose the complicated evils that rendered our 
accession, for some time, an aggravation rather than 
a mitigation of the sufferings of the people. They 
unfold one after another the misapprehensions and 
disastrous vacillations amid which our first solid 
progress was made. They impartially retain the 
evidence of low motives and official incompetence 
side by side with the impress of rare devotion and 
administrative skill. But taken as a whole, they 
reveal the secret of England's greatness in the East. 
They exhibit a small band of our countrymen 
going forth to govern an unexplored and a half- 
subdued territory. Before the grave heroism and 
masterful characters of these men the native mind 
succumbed. Our troops originated for us a rude 
Mahratta-like supremacy ; but the rural records 
attest that the permanent sources of the English 


ascendency in Bengal have been, not their brilHant 
mihtary successes, but dehberate civil courage and 
indomitable will. 

Besides the value of these memorials as a 
groundwork for an accurate and a yet unwritten 
history, they possess a special interest to those 
who are charged with the government of India at 
the present day. When the East India Company 
accepted the internal administration of Bengal, it 
engaged to rule in accordance with native usages ; 
and the first step towards the fulfilment of its pro- 
mise was to ascertain what these usages really 
were. To this end instructions repeatedly issued 
during a period of thirty years directing all local 
officers to institute inquiries, and even after the 
formal command was removed the habit of collect- 
ing and reporting information continued till 1820. 

The period at which the rural records open in 
the western districts is one of peculiar interest. It 
stands on the border ground between the ancient 
and the modern system of Indian government. 
The evidence on which to form a permanent 
arrangement of the land revenue was in process 
of being collected, and not a single subject of 
fiscal leo-islation nor a detail in the agricultural 
economy of each district escaped inquiry. The 
tenure of the landholders and their relations to 
the middlemen ; the tenure of the cultivators, their 
earnings and their style of living, their clothing 
and the occupation of their families at odd hours ; 
the price of all sorts of country produce ; the rent 


of various qualities of land ; the mineral products 
of the district ; the condition of the artisans and 
manufacturers, their profits and their public bur- 
dens ; the native currency and system of exchange ; 
the native system of police ; the state of the dis- 
trict jail ; lastly, cesses, tolls, dues, and every other 
method of recognised or unrecognised taxation, — 
formed in turn the subject of report. In a word, 
the whole fabric of the rural life of Bengal, with 
its joys, sorrows, and manifold oppressions, is dis- 
sected and laid bare. 

The sweeping revenue reforms inaugurated at 
the close of the first quarter of the present century, 
and the demands for a more exact administration 
that every year has brought forth since, have left 
neither leisure nor inclination for such studies. 
The labours of a previous school of officers soon 
became a subject of indifference to their successors ; 
the quick decay of a tropical climate began its Vv^ork; 
and of the researches that had occupied the ablest 
administrators during the first fifty years of our rule, 
— researches that they had designed as the basis of 
a consistent system of Indian rural law, — the greater 
part has, during the second fifty years, been made 
over as a prey to mildew and white ants. 

What proportion has perished can never be 
known. What part survives can only be perma- 
nently preserved by the intervention of the State. 
Among a highly cultured people the writing of 
national history may well be left to private efforts ; 
but in modern India no leisurely and lettered class 


has yet been developed to conduct such researches.^ 
In truth, government among imperfectly civilised 
societies has to discharge many functions which, in 
a more advanced stage, may, with great wisdom, be 
made over to individual enterprise. No one can 
be more sensitively conscious than the writer of the 
imperfections of a work written in the jungle, eight 
thousand miles distant from European libraries, 
amid the changes and daily exactions of an Indian 
career. But this isolation, while productive of 
sufficiently obvious defects, has enabled him to 
essay several things not attempted before. The 
manuscript Indian archives in London, in Cal- 
cutta, and in the provincial offices of Bengal have 
for the first time been compared, and their infor- 
mation brought to a common focus. Learned 
natives have been employed to compile district 
histories, and the Ancient Houses of Bengal have 
been induced, for the first time in the English annals 
of the Province, to open up their family record- 
rooms. The whole body of missionaries — Episco- 
pal, Baptist, and American Dissenters — who labour 
among the lapsed races on the ethnical frontier, 
have heartily joined in the work, each favouring me 
with the results of his own researches into the 

^ Dr. Buchanan, who was engaged in a statistical and historical 
survey of the districts north of Beerbhoom (1807-1814), could not find 
a single antiquarian or a single historical document throughout the 
great province of Bahar, — The History, Antiquities, etc., of Eastern 
India, compiled from the Buchanan MSS., in the East India 
House, by R. Montgomery Martin, 3 vols. 8vo, 1838, vol. i., p. 21. 
This work would form an excellent basis for a history of rural 
Bengal, were it not confined to a few districts only. 


lano-uaa-es and habits of the hill-men. If it were 
not invidious to particularize any single class of 
my coadjutors, it would be to these learned and 
reverend o-entlemen that I should wish to return 
especial thanks. 

Whatever may be the shortcomings of this pre- 
liminary volume, the author believes that it will 
lead to the discovery, and he hopes to the rescue, 
of a vast store of materials from which an invalu- 
able work might be educed ; materials which will 
enable the Indian Government to discharge two 
hitherto neglected duties ; the duty which it owes 
to our own nation, of preserving the only circum- 
stantial memorials of British rule in Bengal, and the 
duty it owes to other nations, of interpreting the 
rural millions of India to the western world.* 

* It is due to the Bengal Government to state, that I was reheved 
during a short time from other duties, in order to be enabled to pro- 
secute the researches of which this volume is the first-fruits. But 
hardly had the arrangement been made when the famine of 1865-66 
came and the services of every officer were required for practical 




r\^ the 29th of March 1787, the British Govern- 
^^ ment undertook the direct administration of 
the two great frontier principaHties of Lower Bengal. 
Situated on the extreme verge of unwieldy jurisdic- 
tions, and separated from headquarters by rivers and 
swamps, and almost impassable jungle, they had, 
up to this time, been permitted by the English to 
remain pretty much as we had found them, in the 
hands of their hereditary princes.^ The position of 
these noblemen was in many respects analogous to 
that of wardens of the marches in feudal times. 
They held their territory partly as semi-indepen- 
dent chiefs, partly upon a military tenure from 
the Viceroy of Bengal, paying only a small tribute, 

1 Beerbhoom had been temporarily placed under supervision in 
1769; it was formally 'visited' by the Committee of Circuit in 
1772, but the local administration remained in the hands of the 
Rajah as Amil. — Consultations of the Revenue Council of Moor- 
shedabad, dated 23d October 1770, 28th February 177 1, etc. ; the 
Rajah's petition, in Proceedings of the Select Committee, dated 
28th April 1770, I. O. R. ; Family Book of the Princes of Beer- 
bhoom, B. D. A. 


and being held responsible for the defence of the 
western frontier. But during the half-century pre- 
ceding 1787 their power had rapidly declined. In 
the northern district Vir-bhumi, literally Hero 
Land, or as it is commonly written in English 
documents, Beerbhoom, an unsuccessful rebellion 
had subjected the people to double burdens, and 
a painful disease had prevented several successive 
princes from heading their troops in the field. In 
the southern district, anciently called Mala-bhumi, 
the Land of the Wrestlers, but now known as 
Bishenpore, matters were still worse. ^ Family 
feuds had wasted the inheritance, and the reign- 
ing prince, a white-haired, feeble man, had sunk 
beneath an accumulation of misfortunes. In 
neither district was the hereditary chief in a posi- 
tion to provide for the security of his people. 
Bodies of marauders congregated upon the frontier, 
where the mountain system slopes down upon the 
Gangetic valley, and in 1784 the evil had grown 
so serious as to require the interference of the 
British power.^ In May 1785, the collector of 
Moorshedabad, at the extremity of whose jurisdic- 
tion Beerbhoom lay, formally declared the civil 
authorities ' destitute of any force capable of mak- 
ing head against such an armed multitude,' and 
petitioned for troops to act against bands of 

2 Bishenpore is at present divided between the districts of Ban- 
corah and Midnapore. Bh. R. 

^ Letter from Edward Otto Ives, Esq., Magistrate of Moorshe- 
dabad, to the Govern or- General and Gentlemen of the Council of 
Revenue, dated 15th August 1784. B. J. R. 


plunderers four hundred strong.* A month later, 
the banditti had grown to ' near a thousand people,' 
and were preparing for an organized invasion of 
the lowlands.^ Next year we find the freebooters 
firmly established in Beerbhoom ; strong positions 
occupied by their permanent camps ; the hereditary 
prince unable to sit for an hour on his state cushion, 
much less to appear in the field ; the public revenue 
intercepted on its way to the treasury, and the com- 
mercial operations of the company within the dis- 
trict at a stand, ^ It was clear that the old system 
of things could not last much longer. A British 
civil officer was accordingly despatched from Moor- 
shedabad to support the Rajah against the marau- 
ders, to inquire into the grievances of the peasantry, 
and to ascertain the amount of revenue which the 
principality, if relieved of the incidents of a mili- 
tary tenure and brought directly under British rule, 
could afford to pay/ 

No records of this g-entleman's administration 
have been discovered. It does not appear that he 
increased the public burdens, nor indeed was time 
allowed him to do so. Lord Cornwallis, when re- 
adjusting the divisions of Bengal in 1787,^ saw that 

* Letter from the same to the same, dated Moorshedabad, 26th 
May 1785. B. J. R. 

^ Letter from the same to the same, dated 30th June 1785. 
B. J. R. 

^ Many factories were abandoned altogether. B. R. R. 

^ Miscellaneous proceedings : Committee of Revenue, Fort- 
William. The deputation of Mr. G. R. Foley, the gentleman in 
question, received sanction on the 9th oi February 1786. C. O. R. 

8 Board of Revenue's MS. Records. C. O. R. 


this was not a case for half-measures or makeshifts, 
and that Beerbhoom would never be free from the 
hill plunderers so long as it remained a remote de- 
pendency of Moorshedabad. The southern district, 
Bishenpore, had before this reached a state that 
demanded the presence of a responsible repre- 
sentative of the Government, and Lord Cornwallis 
determined to unite the two border principalities 
into one compact British district. Accordingly, 
in the Calcittta Gazette of the 29th of March 
1787, the following appointment was announced: 
' W. Pye, Esq., confirmed Collector of Bishenpore 
in addition to Beerbhoom, heretofore superintended 
by G. R. Foley, Esq.' ^ 

It does not appear that Mr, Pye ever visited 
Beerbhoom except in pursuit of banditti who had 
sacked some towns in Bishenpore, and he suddenly 
quitted the district for a distant part of Bengal three 
weeks after the above appointment appeared.^" His 
successor was Mr. Sherburne, a gentleman whose 
history and misfortunes will hereafter occupy some 

^ The Calcutta Gazette, or Oriental Advertiser, folio and quarto, 
a weekly paper published on Thursdays, with Gazettes Extraordi- 
nary for special orders of Government and other news. The most 
perfect series of this journal is in the India Office Library : it ex- 
tends from 1784 to 1805, with a break between 1802 and 1804. Two 
volumes of selections have been compiled from a less perfect copy 
in India by Mr. W. S. Seton-Karr, of the Bengal Civil Service, one 
of Her Majesty's Judges in the Supreme Court of Bengal. I. O. L. 

^0 Bishenpore had been placed under Mr. Pye on the 25th April 
1786 ; he left the United District on the 19th April 1787. Having 
got scent of promotion he did not wait for the arrival of his successor, 
but made over charge to his assistant. — MS. Office Memo. Book, 
Board of Revenue. C. O. R. 


pages." During his brief administration of a year 
and a half the capital of the united district was 
transferred from Bishenpore, on the south of the 
Adji, to Soorie the present headquarters in Beer- 
bhoom, on the north of the river ; the larger bodies 
of marauders were broken up, and the two heredi- 
tary princes reduced to the rank of private country 
gentlemen. Mr. Sherburne ruled sternly, as a 
governor of a newly subjected frontier ought to 
rule, and his name remains in the mouths of old 
inhabitants to this day. In those times, however, 
the only result of placing an energetic man at the 
head of a district was to disperse the banditti into 
the adjoining jurisdictions, and in October 1 78S the 
Calcutta newspaper announced that a Beerbhoom 
treasure party had been attacked on the south of 
the Adji, the military guard overpowered, five men 
slain, and more than three thousand pounds worth 
of silver carried off.^'^ 

Early in November 1788, Mr. Sherburne was 
removed under suspicion of corrupt dealings, and 
after a short interregnum Mr. Christopher Keating 
assumed charge of the united district. ^'^ Mr. Keat- 
ing found the local administration in full working 

■ 1^ Appointed, 4th April 1787 ; received charge, 29th April 1787 ; 
delivered over charge, 3d November 1788. Board of Revenue Re- 
cords. C. O. R. 

^^ Sieca rupees 30,000. Calcutta Gazette of Thursday, i6th 
October 1788. The attack took place within the district of Burdwan, 
Thanna Manirampore. 

^^ Appointed, 29th October 1788 ; received charge of the dis- 
trict, 14th November ; gave over charge to his successor and left 
the district, 6th August 1793, after an administration of nearly five 
years. C. O. R. 

VOL. I. B 


order, under the experimental system which forms 
the distinguishing feature of the first four years 
of Lord CornwalHs' reign. During the eighteen 
months of Mr. Sherburne's rule, the two frontier 
principalities had passed from the condition of 
military fiefs into that of a regular British district, 
administered by a collector and covenanted assist- 
ants, defended by the Company's troops, studded 
with fortified factories, intersected by a new military 
road, and possessing daily communication with the 
seat of government in Calcutta. The local records 
are preserved without interruption from this date, 
and the short interval between 1786 when the 
district was entirely under its native chiefs, and 
1788, the period with regard to which our informa- 
tion becomes exact, although it changed the position 
of the Rajahs and the form of the local administra- 
tion, could not in any important degree have altered 
the condition of the people. The inhabitants of 
Beerbhoom and Bishenpore in November 1 788 
were, so far as regards their numbers, their habits, 
their burdens, and their social welfare, precisely in 
the circumstances in which Mr. Pye found them in 
March 1787. The benefits which they enjoyed 
and the evils which they suffered, they owed not 
to English but to native government, and their 
condition may be assumed to fairly represent the 
state of similar semi-independent principalities at 
the period of their passing under our rule. This 
state, viewed from the other side of the globe, 
mellowed by the lapse of time, and regarded with 

THE GREAT FAMINE 6*^ 1769-70. 19 

that tenderness which spontaneously goes forth to 
ancient types that have passed away, has been 
depicted as happier and infinitely better suited to 
the natives of Bengal, than their subsequent con- 
dition under British governors. Whether such 
pictures are borne out by closer inspection, the 
rural records, written by eye-witnesses and without 
any view to history, will show. 

In the cold weather of 1769 Bengal was visited 
by a famine whose ravages two generations failed 
to repair. English historians, treating of Indian 
history as a series of struggles about the Com- 
pany's charter enlivened with startling military 
exploits, have naturally little to say regarding an 
occurrence which involved neither a battle nor a 
parliamentary debate. Mill, with all his accuracy 
and minuteness, can spare barely five lines ^^ for the 
subject, and the recent Famine Commissioners con- 
fess themselves unable to fill in the details. ^'^ But 
the disaster which from this distance floats as a 
faint speck on the horizon of our rule, stands out 
in the contemporary records in appalling propor- 
tions. It forms, indeed, the key to the history 
of Bengal during the succeeding forty years. It 
places in a new light those broad tracks of 
desolation which the English conquerors found 

" Vol. iii. p. 486. 8vo. i860. 

^^ ' We have not yet been able to obtain any details of the great 
famine in Bengal of 1770.' — Papers, etc., relating to the famine in 
Bengal and Orissa (1866), presented to Parliament by Her Majesty's 
command. Folio. Vol. i. p. 228. Further on, however (p. 345), 
some information is given. 


everywhere throughout the Lower Valley ; ft un- 
folds the sufferings entailed on an ancient rural 
society, by being suddenly placed in a position in 
which its immemorial forms and usages could no 
longer apply ; and then it explains how, out of the 
disorganized and fragmentary elements, a new order 
of thino-s was evolved.^^ 

Lower Bengal has three harvests each year : a 
scanty pulse crop in spring ; a more important rice 
crop in autumn ; and the great rice crop, the harvest 
of the year, in December. In the early part of 
1769 high prices ^^ had ruled, owing to the partial 
failure of the crops in 1768, but the scarcity had 
not been so severe as materially to affect the 
Government rental. In spite of the complaints 
and forebodings of local officers, the authorities at 
headquarters reported that the land-tax had been 

^^ Besides the official papers subsequently quoted, the following 
pamphlets, some of them I believe uniques, have been used as 
materials for this chapter : ' A Narrative of what happened in Bengal 
in 1760;' no title-page. 'Memoirs of the Revolutions in Bengal,' 
1760. ' Lord Clive's Letter to the Proprietors of the East India 
Stock,' 1764. ' Dangers, etc., from the East India Company's build- 
ing their own Ships,' 1768. ' Original Papers relative to the Dis- 
turbances in Bengal from 1759 to 1764' (a most valuable collection), 
1765. 'An Account of the Trade to the East Indies,' etc., with two 
other tracts, 1772. ' Essay on the Rights of the East India Company,' 
1776. 'Letter from G. Dodwell, Esq., to the Proprietors,' 1777. Two 
tracts upon the Company's building their own shipping, 1778. ' Con- 
siderations on the East India Bill now depending in Parliament,' 
1779. After 1780 the pamphlets and newspaper articles relative to 
Bengal become too multitudinous for enumeration. The number 
consulted exceeds 130. O. C. and I. O. L. 

^'^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated Fort William, 30th September 1769. Proceedings of the 
Select Committee, ist February 1769, etc. I. O. R. 


rigorously enforced ;^^ and the rains of 1 769, although 
deficient in the northern districts, seemed for a time 
to promise relief' In the Delta they had been so 
abundant as to cause temporary loss from inunda- 
tion ; and during the succeeding year of general 
famine, the whole south-east of Bengal uttered no 
complaint.^'''' The September harvest, indeed, was 
sufficient to enable the Bengal Council to promise 
grain to Madras on a large scale, ^"^ notwithstanding 
the high prices. But in that month the periodical 
rains prematurely ceased, and the crop which de- 
pended on them for existence withered. ' The 
fields of rice,' wrote the native superintendent of 
Bishenpore- at a later period, ' are become like fields 
of dried straw.' Calamitous predictions, however, 
were at that time so common on the part of local 
officials, that the Governor declined to transmit 
the alarm. The only serious intimation of the 
approaching famine to the Court of Directors in 
1769, is not signed by the President, Mr. Verelst, 
but by Mr. John Cartier, the second in Council, 
who was to succeed him.^^ The Government had 
deemed it necessary to lay in a supply for the 

^^ ' The Revenues were never so closely collected before.'- — Resi- 
dent at the Durbar, 7th February 1769. I. O. R. 

1^ Mr. Rumbold, chief of Bahar, at consultation of the i6th 
August 1769. 

^^^ Mr. Becher, Resident at the Durbar, 30th March 1770, etc. 
I. O. R. 

^*' Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 25th September 1769. Public Consultation, August 7, 1769. 

^1 From the same to the same, dated 23d November 1768, paras. 
8, 9, 10. Mr. Verelst's omission to sign was probably intentional, as 
he took part in the proceedings and signed another letter of the same 


troops, — a piece of foresight at that period common 
when a harvest was either very abundant or very 
scanty, and one which Mr. Cartier wholly failed to 
carry out in the present instance. 

On the 24th of December, after the last harvest 
of the year had been gathered in, Mr. Verelst laid 
down his office, without having conveyed to his 
masters a single intimation of the true nature of the 
impending famine.^" 

On the same day Mr. Cartier took over charge 
of the province, but he seems to have intimated to 
his masters no further anxiety until late in January 
1770. In the fourth week of that month he writes 
that one district was suffering so severely that some 
slight remission of the land-tax would have to be 
made;''^ but ten days afterwards he informs the 
Court, that although the distress was undoubtedly 
very great, the Council had not ' yet found any 
failure in the revenue or stated payments.' ^* 

New hopes had also arisen, for the spring crop 

date. The letters of the 25th and 30th September only express 
apprehensions for the revenue, not of general famine in Bengal. 

22 From the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 26th December 1769. Postscript. In Appendix B, ' The Great 
Famine of 1770 officially described,' extracts from the original docu- 
ments will be found. The reader should discriminate between the 
apprehensions of local officers and the general facts as ascertained 
and accepted by Government. 

"^^ Letter from the same to the same, dated 25th January 1770, 
para. 48. The proposed remission was about ^30,000, out of a total 
revenue which in 1787 amounted to ^450,000 sterling. Letter from 
the Governor-General in Council to the Court of Directors, dated 31st 
July 1787. L O. R. 

2* Letter from the same to the same, dated 4th February 1770, 
paras. 4, 5, and 6. L O. R. 

THE SPRING OF 1770. 23 

now covered the fields and promised a speedy 
although a scanty relief. It was ascertained, more- 
over, that both banks of the Ganges, in the north of 
the province, had yielded an abundant barley and 
wheat harvest.^^ The people suffered intensely, 
— how intensely, it seems to have been as difficult 
then as now for the Central Government to ascer- 
tain until too late ; and notwithstanding alarming 
reports from the districts, up to the middle of 
February the Council believed the question to be 
chiefly one of revenue. The utmost that could be 
expected from Government, it wrote, would be a 
lenient policy towards the husbandmen whom a 
bad harvest had disabled from paying the usual 
land-tax.^*^ It was common at that period to make 
temporary remissions and advances whenever a 
harvest proved deficient ; but during 1 769-70, al- 
though such indulgences were constantly proposed, 
they were not, except in a very few isolated in- 
stances, granted. Various charitable schemes were 
proposed, but no other relief measures at this 
period are specified in the letters home, and the 
local efforts, as will be afterwards seen, were on a 
sadly inadequate scale. In April a scanty spring 
harvest was gathered in ; and the Council, acting 
upon the advice of its Mussulman Minister of 
Finance, added ten per cent, to the land-tax for the 
ensuing year.^'^ 

2« Consultation of the 9th June 1770. I. O. R. 
26 Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 4th February 1770, para. 6. I. O. R. 

" Letter from the same to the same, dated nth September 1770, 


But the distress continued to increase at a rate 
that baffled official calculation.^** The marvellous 
and infinitely pathetic silence under suffering which 
characterizes the Bengali at length was broken ; and 
in the second week of May, the Central Govern- 
ment awoke to find itself in the midst of universal 
and irremediable starvation. ' The mortality, the 
beggary,' they then wrote, ' exceed all description. 
Above one-third of the Inhabitants have perished 
in the once plentiful province of Purneah, and In 
other parts the misery is equal. '^" 

The inability of the Government to appreciate 
the true character of the calamity is rendered more 
remarkable by the circumstance, that at that period 
the local administration continued In the hands of 
the former native officers. ^° A Mussulman Minister 
of State ^^ regulated the whole Internal government ; 
native revenue farmers covered the province, prying 
into every barn, and shrewdly calculating the crop 
on every field ; native judges retained their seats In 
the rural courts ; and native officers still discharged 
the whole functions of the police. These men 
knew the country, its capabilities, Its average yield 
and its average requlrem.ents, w^Ith an accuracy that 

para. 5. The financial year commenced on the loth of April. The 
revenue was raised from ^1,380,269 to /i, 524,567 during the famine 
year. I. O. R. 

2* The spring crops proved deficient. Letter from the President 
and Council to the Court of Directors, dated 9th May 1770. 1. O. R. 

^^ Same letter, para. 3. 

2" It was not till 1772 that the Company stood forth as the civil 
administrator of Bengal. 

^^ The celebrated Mahomed Reza Khan. 


the most painstaking English official can seldom 
hope to attain to. They had a strong interest in 
representing things to be worse than they were ; for 
the more intense the scarcity, the greater the merit 
in collecting the land-tax. Every consultation is 
filled with their apprehensions and highly-coloured 
accounts of the public distress ; but it does not 
appear that the conviction entered the minds of 
the Council during the previous Winter months, 
that the question was not so much one of re- 
venue as of depopulation. This misconception, 
strange as it may appear, is susceptible of explana- 
tion. From the first appearance of Lower Bengal 
in history, its inhabitants have been reticent, self- 
contained, distrustful of foreign observation, in a 
degree without parallel among other equally civi- 
lised nations. The cause of this taciturnity will 
afterwards be clearly explained ; but no one who is 
acquainted either with the past experiences or the 
present condition of the people, can be ignorant 
of its results. Local officials may write alarming 
reports, but their apprehensions seem to be 
contradicted by the apparent quiet that prevails. 
Outward palpable proofs of suffering are often 
wholly wanting; and even when, as in 177O' 
such proofs abound, there is generally no lack of 
evidence on the other side. The Bengali bears 
existence with a composure that neither accident 
nor chance can ruffle. He becomes silently rich 
or uncomplainingly poor. The emotional part of 
his nature is in strict subjection ; his resentment 


enduring, but unspoken ; his gratitude of the 
sort that silently descends from generation to 
generation. The passion for privacy reaches its 
climax in the domestic relations. An outer apart- 
ment, in even the humblest households, is set apart 
for strangers and the transaction of business, but 
everything behind it is a mystery. The most 
intimate friend does not venture to make those 
commonplace kindly inquiries about a neighbour's 
wife or daughter, which European courtesy demands 
from mere acquaintances. This family privacy is 
maintained at any price. During the famine of 
1866 it was found impossible to render public 
charity available to the female members of the 
respectable classes, and many a rural household 
starved slowly to death without uttering a com- 
plaint or making a sign. 

All through the stifling summer of 1770 the 
people went on dying. The husbandmen sold their 
cattle ; they sold their implements of agriculture ; 
they devoured their seed-grain ; they sold their 
sons and daughters, till at length no buyer of 
children could be found ;^^ they eat the leaves of 
trees ^^ and the grass of the field; and in June 1770 
the Resident at the Durbar affirmed that the livino- 
were feeding on the dead.^* Day and night a 
torrent of famished and disease-stricken wretches 

32 Petition of Mahomed Ala Khan, Foujdar of Piirneah.— Con- 
sultations, 28th April 1770, etc. I. O. R. 

33 Petition of Ujaggar Mull, Amil of Jessore. — Consultations of 
28th April 1770. I. O. R. 

3* Letter of the 2d June. Consultation of 9th June 1770. I. O. R. 

THE SUMMER OF 1770. 27 

poured into the great cities. At an early period 
of the year pestilence had broken out. In March 
we find smallpox at Moorshedabad, where it 
glided through the Viceregal mutes, and cut off 
the Prince Syfut in his palace*."' The streets were 
blocked up with promiscuous heaps of the dying 
and dead. Interment could not do its work quick 
enough ; even the dogs and jackals, the public 
scavengers of the East, became unable to accom- 
plish their revolting work, and the multitude of 
mangled and festering corpses at length threatened 
the existence of the citizens. 

At the beginning of the famine, a young civilian 
landed in Calcutta who was destined to reach the 
highest post that a British subject can aspire to in 
the East. John Shore, afterwards Lord Teign- 
mouth, was a man of singular honesty, and one 
who held in especial disdain the art of colouring 
or exaggerating. The scenes of 1770 left an im- 
pression on his mind that neither an eventful career 
nor an unusually prolonged period of active life 
could efface. When in high office he always dis- 
played a peculiar sensitiveness with regard to the 
premonitory signs of scarcity, and elaborated a 
system by which he hoped to avert famine. His 
most historical act^^ was prompted by the effects of 

^^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated i8th March 1770. I. O. R. 

^'^ His opposition to Lord CornwaUis with regard to making the 
settlement of 1789 permanent at once. Shore thought that a country- 
only half-peopled and with one-third of its surface lying waste, was 
not ready for such a measure. 


the depopulation occasioned by the calamity we are 
describing, and nearly forty years afterwards, when 
many of the later incidents of Eastern service had 
passed from his remembrance, his undying recollec- 
tion of the horrors 'of 1770 found expression in 
verse. It is to be regretted that the only non- 
official description we possess by an eye-witness is 
a metrical one ; but it should be remembered that 
John Shore's poetry adheres as closely to the facts 
as many men's prose : — 

' Still fresh in memory's eye the scene I view, 
The shrivelled limbs, sunk eyes, and lifeless hue ; 
Still hear the mother's shrieks and infant's moans. 
Cries of despair and agonizingi¥rroans. a^/^ f 
In wild confusion dead and dying lie ; — 
Hark to the jackal's yell and vulture's cry, 
The dog s fell howl, as midst the glare of day 
They riot unmolested on their prey ! 
Dire scenes of horror, which no pen can trace, 
Nor rolling years from memory's page efface.' ^'^ 

Christian humanity and enlightened government 
have rendered modern statesmen ignorant of the 
meaning of the words pestilence and famine in their 
ancient sense. The recent calamity in Bengal has 
indeed given us a hint as to what the latter term 
might come to mean ; but even the local officers who 
saw it at the. worst, will hardly be prepared for the 
effects of a famine under the old i^egime. Lest any 
one should be tempted to consider Shore's verses 
coloured, or my own pages strained, I copy a 

^^ Memoir of the Life and Correspondence of John Lord Teign- 
mouth, by his Son. Vol. i. pp. 25, 26. 8vo. London, 1843. 


description, faithfully drawn from the Mussulman 
writers, of the calamity that befell Gour several 
centuries before. ^^ As the famine of 1770 stands 
an appalling spectre on the threshold of British rule 
in India, so the year in which Bengal was incor- 
porated into the Mogul Empire is marked by a 
disaster from which the Hindu metropolis never 
recovered. ' Thousands died daily,' writes the 
historian of Bengal. ' The living, wearied with 
burying the dead, threw their bodies into the river. 
This created a stench which only increased the 
disease. The governor was carried off by the ^ 
plague. The city was at once depopulated, and 
from that day to this it has been abandoned. At 
the time of Its destruction It had existed two thou- » 
sand years. It was the most magnificent city in 
India, of immense extent, and filled with noble \ 
buildings. It was the capital of a hundred kings, I 
the seat of wealth and luxury. In one year was it I 
humbled to the dust, and now It is the abode onlyf 
of tigers and monkeys.' '^'^ 

In 1770 the rainy season brought relief, and 
before the end of September the province reaped 
an abundant harvest.^*^ But the relief came too late 
to avert depopulation. Starving and shelterless 
crowds crawled despairingly from one deserted vll- 

^^ The precise nature of this calamity is uncertain ; probably 
pestilence proceeding from famine. 

39 History of Bengal, by J. C. Marshman. Third edition. Seram- 

40 Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 24th December 1770, para. 22. I. O. R. 


lage to another, in a vain search for food, or a resting- 
place in which to hide themselves from the rain. 
The endemics incident to the season were thus 
spread over the whole country, and until the close 
of the year disease continued so prevalent as to 
form a subject of communication from the Govern- 
ment in Bengal to the Court of Directors.*^ Millions 
of famished wretches died in the struggle to live 
through the few intervening weeks that separated 
them from the harvest, their last gaze being probably 
fixed on the densely covered fields that would ripen 
only a little too late for them. ' It is scarcely pos- 
sible,' write the Council at the beginning of the 
September reaping, ' that any description could be 
an exaggeration.'^^ 

Three months later another bountiful harvest, 
the great rice crop of the year, was gathered in. 
Abundance returned to Bengal as suddenly as 
famine had swooped down upon it, and in reading 
some of the manuscript records of December, it is 
difficult to realize that the scenes of the preceding 
ten months have not been hideous phantasmagoria 
or a long troubled dream. On Christmas Eve the 
Council in Calcutta wrote home to the Court of 
Directors that the scarcity had entirely ceased and, 
incredible as it may seem, that unusual plenty had 
returned. ' There is already,' they added, ' a great 
quantity of grain in this place, and a prospect of 

*i Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 12th December 1770, para. 9. I. O. R. 

*2 Letter from the same to the same, dated Fort WilHam, nth 
September 1770, para. 4. L O. R. 


much more abundance in a short time.' "^^ So 
generous had been the harvest, that the Govern- 
ment proposed at once to lay in its mihtary stores 
for the ensuing year, and expected to obtain them 
' at a very cheap rate.' 

The season of scarcity was indeed past.^"* In 
1 77 1 the harvests again proved plentiful;^'' in 1772 
they were so superabundant, that the land revenue 
could not be realized in consequence of the exces- 
sively low price of grain;*'' and in 1773, notwith- 
standing a temporary apprehension for the crops 
in the northern districts,'"^ the earth again yielded 
unwonted increase, and exportation went on briskly 
to less favoured provinces.'*'^ 

The famine of 1770 was therefore a one year's 
famine, caused by the general failure of the Decem- 
ber harvest in 1769, and intensified by a partial 
failure of the crops of the previous year and the 
following spring. In the preceding year, 1768-69, 
high prices had ruled ; but there had been nothing 
like famine, nor even a deficiency in the crops suffi- 
cient to materially affect the rents.*^ On the other 

*^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 24th December 1770, para. 22. See also a letter from the 
same to the same, dated 12th December 1770, para. 9. I. O. R. 

** PubHc Consultation of the 14th November 1770. I. O. R.. 

*' Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated loth January 1772, para. 16, etc. 

^*' Letter from the same to the same, dated loth November 1773, 
para. 33. Also Letter of the 30th December. I. O. R. 

*'' Letter of the loth November 1773, para. 32. I. O. R. 

^^ Letter of the 30th December 1773, para. 9. L O. R. 

''^ I deduce this from the Revenue Statements of 1768-69. The 
local officers, as usual, are loud in their forebodings; but, on the whole, 


hand, the one year of scarcity was followed by 
three years of extraordinary abundance, and nature 
exerted herself to the utmost to repair the damage 
she had done. 

That she failed to do so, the records of the next 
thirty years mournfully attest. Plenty had indeed 
returned, but it had returned to a silent and de- 
serted province. Before the end of May 1770, 
one-third of the population was officially calcu- 
lated to have disappeared; in June the deaths were 
returned ' as six is to sixteen of the whole inhabit- 
ants;' and it was estimated that 'one half of the 
cultivators and payers of revenue will perish with 
hunger.' During the rains (July to October) the 
depopulation became so evident that the Govern- 
ment wrote to the Court of Directors in alarm 
about ' the number of industrious peasants and 
manufacturers destroyed by the famine.''" But it 

the land-tax was 'closely' realized. Warren Hastings in 1772 quoted 
the receipts of the year 1768-69 as a sort of standard, and took credit 
for having brought up the revenue after three plentiful years, and by 
means, as he confesses, of cruel severity to the same amount. In 
1770, Mahomed Reza Khan, the Financial Minister and Minister of 
the Interior, recommended an increase of the land-tax. The sum he 
proposed was ^1,524.567. The actual receipts in 1768-69 were 
;^i, 525,485. Had there been any serious deficiency in the crops of 
1768, the land-tax must have suffered (as it did in 1769-70), and the 
receipts of 1768 would not have been accepted as a standard. 
Again, had the country in 1769 been, seriously impoverished by a 
scarcity in 1768, it could not have paid so large a portion of the 
land-tax for 1769-70 as it did. Out of a total demand amounting to 
^1,380,269, only ^65,355 were remitted during the famine year. — 
Letters from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated nth September 1770, para. 5 ; of the 3d November 1772, para. 
6 ; and other documents. I. O. R. 

'"^ Mr. James Alexander, Supervisor of Bahar ; Consultations of 



was not till cultivation commenced, for the follow- 
ing year (1771), that the practical consequences 
began to be felt. It was then discovered that the 
remnant of the population would not suffice to 
till the land. Packet after packet came home, 
laden with the details of ruin. Indeed, whatever 
may be the subject of a communication to begin 
with, it seems irresistibly to slide into the great 
topic of the day ; and in one of two letters bearing 
the same date, and both adverting to the depopula- 
tion, the Council plainly avow that there has been 
' such a mortality and desertion among the ryots, as 
to deprive the (revenue) farmers of the possibility of 
receiving the rents' in arrear.^^ Notwithstanding 
the abundant crops of 1771, the country continued 
to fall out of tillage ; and the commissioners ap- 
pointed in 1772 to visit the various districts, found 
the finest part of the province ' desolated by famine,' 
' the lands abandoned, and the revenue falling to 
decay.' ^'^ Two years after the dearth Warren 
Hastings wrote an elaborate report on the state 
of Bengal. He had made a progress through a 
large portion of the country, instituting the most 
searching inquiries by the way, and he delibe- 

the 9th June 1770, and Mr. Ducarel of Purneah, i6th February 
1770. I. O. R. 

^1 Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated I2th February 1771, para. 44. In another letter, same 
date, they speak of 'the great reduction of people.' In one, a few 
months before, they lament ' the number of industrious peasants and 
manufacturers destroyed by the famine.' I. O. R. 

^- Letter from the same to the same, dated 5th September 1772, 
para. 10. I. O. R. 

VOL. I. C 


rately states the loss as ' at least one-third of the 
inhabitants.' "'^ This estimate has been accepted 
by all official and by the most accurate non- 
official writers/* It represents an aggregate of in- 
dividual suffering which no European nation has 
been called upon to contemplate within historic 
times. Twenty years after the famine the remain- 
ing population was estimated at from twenty-four 
to thirty millions ; and we cannot help arriving at 
the conclusion, that the failure of a single crop, fol- 
lowing a year of scarcity, had within nine months 
swept away ten millions of human beings. 

The question as to who was responsible for 
their death, is the first idea that suggests itself to 
an Englishman of the present day : it would have 
been one of the last to strike either our country- 
men or the natives of India at the period of which 
I write. Until 1772 Bengal was regarded by the 
British public in the light of a vast warehouse, 
in which a number of adventurous Engflishmen 
carried on business with great profit and on an enor- 
mous scale."' That a numerous native population 

^^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated 3d November 1772, para. 6. This admirable letter, which 
gives a vivid and accurate description of the whole countrj', and 
system of rural administration at the beginning of Warren Hastings' 
rule, is printed in full in the Appendix A, under the title of ' Ben- 
gal Portrayed, A.D. 1772.' 

^* For example, by Mill (vol. iii. p. 486, ed. 1840) and by Auber 
(Rise and Progress, vol. i. p. 414, ed. 1837). 

^^ How tardy and uncertain were the steps by which the internal 
government of Bengal passed into English hands, will be shown in 
a subsequent chapter on ' The Company's First Attempts at Rural 


existed, they were aware ; but this they considered 
an accidental circumstance, and one in which they 
took rather less interest than we at present feel in 
the aborigines of Natal or Sierra - Leone. The 
orator who was destined to clothe the unrealized 
millions of India in flesh and blood, and to set 
them breathing and suffering before the British 
nation, had taken his seat for Wendover barely 
four years before the calamity occurred, and was 
still known as a literary Irishman who had got 
into Parliament as private secretary to a noble 
lord. To the native mind, on the other hand, the 
question of responsibility probably would not occur 
in such cases even at this hour, except within the 
narrow circle influenced and instructed by the 
Anglo-Indian Press. The loss of life was ac- 
cepted as a natural and logical consequence of the 
loss of the crop. The earth had yielded no food ; 
and so the people, in the ordinary and legitimate 
course of things, died. 

But an Englishman, reading that tragical story 
at the present day, cannot rest content with this. 
It Is just to add that neither were the English 
Council in Calcutta satisfied to do so. At an early 
period they issued proclamations against hoarding 
or monopolizing grain, and took much trouble in 
seeing that their edict received due effect.^'' Of 

^^ The precise date at which these measures were introduced does 
not transpire in the records. They are frequently referred to, how- 
ever, e.d. : Letter from the President and Council to the Court of 
Directors, dated 9th March 1772, paras. 46 and 47 ; letter of the 5th 


the real value of this measure I shall have after- 
wards to speak ; but there is ample evidence to 
show that its projectors conscientiously devised it 
as a specific for the disease. They also laid an 
embargo on the exportation of grain, and thus en- 
deavoured, according to their lights, to make the 
most of the scanty stock of food in the province. 
Mention is likewise made of public contributions 
and the importation of rice. But these, operations 
were conducted on a painfully inadequate scale. 
Districts in which men were dying at the rate of 
twenty thousand a month received allotments of 
a hundred and fifty rupees. A provincial council 
gravely considers and magnanimously sanctions a 
grant of ten shillings worth of rice per diem for 
a starving population numbering four hundred 
thousand souls ;^' and the council, after being 
warned that ' one-half the cultivators and payers 
of revenue will perish with hunger,' fixed the con- 
tribution by the Company towards the sustenance 
of thirty millions of people, during six months, at 
^4000.^^ Any expenditure above this sum must 
be defrayed, they stipulated, by the native gran- 
dees. The latter seem to have done their duty so 

September 1772, para. 5. The Home authorities laid quite as much 
stress on these edicts as the Council in Bengal did, and ordered an 
official inquiry into alleged breaches of them in the several districts. 
I. O. R. 

^'^ Letter of the Supervisor of Rungpore, dated 26th September 
1770. Consultation Prov. Council, Moorshedabad, 4th October. 
I. O. R. 

*8 Letter from Mr. Becher, Resident at the Durbar, dated 24th 
December 1770. Petition of the Naib Diwan, ist February 1771. 


far as their means permitted/^ To the Company's 
^4000 they added ^4700, and made themselves 
liable for any extra expense that might be incurred. 
The total, however, proved wholly insufficient to 
touch the evil, and before the managers of the fund 
were aware, ^15,000 had been expended in impor- 
tation, besides ^3100 of supplementary charity in 
Beerbhoom and the other frontier districts.'"' Much 
confusion and some recrimination resulted from this 
excess of expenditure, rendering it difficult to ascer- 
tain the amount contributed by the State. But, on 
the one hand, the native princes had made them- 
selves responsible for the surplus ; on the other, 
the Secret Committee, considering the large sums 
the natives had already given, recommended that 
they should not be called upon for more ; and 
finally, we are assured that the total disbursed from 
the Company's treasury amounted to ^6000.*'^ 
Assuming that the ^3000 in the western districts 
was in addition to this, the utmost that the Coun- 
cil, when pressed by the Court of Directors as to 
Government relief efforts, could show was a distri- 
bution of ^9000 among thirty millions of people, 
of whom six in every sixteen were officially ad- 
mitted to have perished.*'^ 

^9 Note by the Secret Committee, ist February 177 1. Report on 
Mahomed Reza Khan's trial, 1772. 

^^ Petition of the Naib Diwan. 

"^ Note by the Secret Committee, ist February 1771. I. O. R. 

''^ Add to this the native subscription of ^^4700, and we get a 
total of ^13,700 from all sources. The sale of imported rice returned 
a profit of ^6759, which must be deducted from the general outlay. 
— Memorandum on rice sales, ist February 1771. The accounts are 


This sum represents the total distributed in 
charity and allotted for importing grain. Indeed, 
when we turn to the latter operation, a scene of 
corruption and heartlessness is disclosed, which 
raises suspicions as to whether the pittance nomi- 
nally granted by Government ever reached the 
sufferers. The whole administration was accused 
of dealing in grain for their private advantage. It 
was in vain that the Court of Directors wTote one 
indignant letter after another, demanding the names 
of the culprits. No satisfactory investigation was 
ever made ; and the native agents of the governing 
body remain to this day under the charge of carry- 
ing off the husbandman's scanty stock at arbitrary 
prices, stopping and emptying boats that were 
importing rice from other provinces, and ' compel- 
ling the poor ryots to sell even the seed requisite 
for the next harvest.'®^ Not without reason does 
the Court express its suspicion that the guilty 
parties ' could be no other than persons of some 
rank ' in its own service ; and, curious to relate, the 
only high official who was brought to trial for the 
offence was the native Minister of Finance who had 
stood forth to expose the mal-practices of the Eng- 
lish administration. It is fair to add that he was 

very confused, and I have given the Council the benefit of any doubt- 
ful point. 

63 Letters from the Court of Directors to the President and 
Council in Bengal, dated loth April 1771, 28th August 1771, etc. 
1. O. R. 

^■* Mahomed Reza Khan. The investigation of the case against 


The only other relief measures proposed were 
the movement of the troops from the afflicted parts, 
and the remission of the land-tax. The first was 
not carried out, on pretence of general orders from 
home, — orders which a powerful administration 
would have suspended during so exceptional a year. 
The heat of the weather was also enlarged upon 
and unfounded apprehensions were expressed of the 
political danger incident to such a change. The 
troops were marched, however, from one famine- 
stricken part to another, the movement being re- 
presented to the king as made for his benefit ; and 
so far from the English administration having laid 
in a sufficient stock of grain for the army at the 
commencement of the famine, the peasantry com- 
plained that the military wrung from them their 
last chance of subsistence.®^ 

Remissions of the land-tax and advances to the 
husbandmen, although constantly urged by the local 
officials, received little practical effect. In a year 
when thirty-five per cent, of the whole population 
and fifty per cent, of the cultivators perished, not 
five per cent, of the land-tax was remitted, and ten 
per cent, was added to it for the ensuing year 

the Rajah Schitab Roy was a pubHc amende for his apprehension 
rather than a trial. 

^^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 9th May 1770, para. 3. Correspondence of Mr. Alexander, 
Supervisor of Patna, General Sir Robert Barker, Colonel Galliez, 
Captain Harper ; and Consultations, May and June 1770. The failure 
of certain efforts to import grain for the troops also appears. I. O. R. 

^^ For the severities practised, see Appendix A, ' Bengal Portrayed 


To those who are acquainted with the efforts of 
the Bengal Government during the recent Orissa 
famine, this catalogue of relief measures in 1770 will 
appear inhumanely inadequate. But they should be 
careful not to over-estimate either the good effects of 
such measures, or the evil effects of their absence. 
In a country so devoid of the means of intercom- 
munication and transport as Bengal then was, and 
as Orissa still is, no human efforts can avail much 
after a famine has once set in. According to the 
Bengali proverb, it is watering the top of a tree 
whose roots are cut." All such attempts have 
proved, and will continue to prove, insufficient ; 
and their inadequacy will appear more or less 
appalling, in proportion as the public gaze is more 
or less steadily fixed upon them. Thrice during 
the last hundred years has a famine, in the strong 
Indian sense of the word, visited the Northern 
Presidency. In 1770 the English Government 
knew very little about the country, and did still 
less for its inhabitants. Yet, in spite of efforts to 
exaggerated^ what was in sober truth more than 
sufficiently sad, the Council at Calcutta escaped, so 
far as regards the scale of their charities, without 

in 1772 ;' letters from the President and Council to the Court of 
Directors, dated nth September 1770, 3d November 1772, etc. 
Different letters represent different remissions. Before September 
1770 the balance was only ^80,332 ; it was afterwards reduced to 
;i^65,355 out of a total demand of ^1,380,269. 

^'' ' Cora katiya agaya jal dhala.' 

68 Warren Hastings complained of such efforts as early as 
November 1772. Letter to the Court of Directors. 


the faintest censure/'^ In 1837-38 the State efforts 
were more extended, but they were under the 
observation of an Anglo-Indian press, and the 
Government received no lenient handling/" At 
that time British public opinion in Bengal merely- 
meant the sentiments of the Anglo-Indian com- 
munity and its organs ; but since the country passed 
directly under the Crown, the public opinion of 
England has been brought to bear directly on its 
great dependency, and English praise or blame 
in Bengal is no longer the praise or blame of a 
small section of our countrymen resident in India, 
but of the English nation. In 1866, therefore, the 
inadequacy of the Government efforts, although 
carried out upon a scale and with a zeal never 
previously displayed, was patent not merely to the 
Anglo-Indian press, but to the whole English people. 
The benefits of this scrutiny, although occasion- 
ally unpalatable and on rare occasions unjust to 
Indian administrators, have nowhere been more 
conspicuous than in the history of the recent famine. 
The analogy it presents to the calamity of 1770 is 
in many points striking. In both cases, the im- 
mediate cause of the dearth was the premature 
cessation of the autumnal rains, resulting in the 
general failure of the December harvest and the 

^"^ The Court seemed well satisfied with the relief measures of the 
Council, but reproached it with conniving at the monopoly and 
private trade in grain. 

"''^ In the Calcutta and Agra newspapers of that day. One of the 
most valuable memorials of the famine is the Diary of an Invalid on 
his Journey down the Ganges, by J. O'B. Saunders, Esq., a well- 
known Indian journalist. 


partial failure of the spring crops. In both cases, 
the Government failed to perfectly appreciate, or to 
deal with the true character of the calamity until 
the sufferino- amounted to actual starvation. In 
both cases, the general grain-stock in the province 
seems to have been below the average at the com- 
mencement ; and in both, an abundant September 
harvest came to the relief of the people and the 
ensuing December crop brought the famine to a 
close. Even as regards the maximum price reached 
the analogy holds good, in each case rice having 
risen in general to nearly twopence, and in par- 
ticular places to fourpence, a pound ; and in each 
the quoted rates being for a brief period in several 
isolated localities merely nominal, no food existing 
in the market, and money altogether losing its inter- 
changeable value.'^^ In both, the people endured 
silently to the end, with a fortitude that casual 
observers of a different temperament and widely 
dissimilar race may easily mistake for apathy, but 
which those who lived among the sufferers are un- 
able to distinguish from qualities that generally pass 
under a more honourable name."^ 

'■I Papers, etc., relative to the famine (1866) presented to Parlia- 
ment by Her Majesty's command : Part i. p. 345. Letter of Mr. 
Becher, Resident at the Durbar, dated i8th June 1770. Representa- 
tion of the Naib Diwan, ist February 1771. The Cooks Chronical of 
Beerbhoom (Appendix C). 

''^ During 1866, when the famine was severest, I superintended 
public instruction throughout the south-west division of Lower 
Bengal, including Orissa. The subordinate native officers, about 
eight hundred in number, behaved with a steadiness, and, when 
called upon, with a self-abnegation beyond praise. Many of them 
ruined their health. One died while on circuit, almost in his 


But here the analogy ends. In 1770, the 
Government, by interdicting what it was pleased to 
term the monopoly of grain, prevented prices from 
rising at once to their natural rates. The province 
had a certain amount of food in it and this food 
had to last nine months. Private enterprise if left 
to itself would have stored up the general supply 
at the harvest, with a view to realizing a larger 
profit at a later period in the scarcity. Prices 
would in consequence have immediately risen, com- 
pelling the population to reduce their consumption 
from the very beginning of the dearth. The 
general stock would thus have been husbanded and 
the pressure equally spread over the whole nine 
months, instead of being concentrated upon the last 
six. The price of grain, in place of promptly rising 
to three-halfpence a pound as in 1865-66, continued 
at three-farthings during the earlier months of the 
famine." Durine the latter ones it advanced to two- 
pence and in certain localities reached fourpence. In 
1866 the Government perceived this. So far from 
arbitrarily interfering with, and thus discouraging, 
private trade, it clearly realized that its only chance 
was to stimulate private trade. In 1770, respect- 
able men shrank from having anything to do with 
grain-dealing : it was impossible to traffic without a 
stock ; it was impossible to collect a stock without 

palanquin. The touching scenes of self-sacrifice and humble heroism 
which I witnessed among the poor villagers on my tours of inspection 
will remain in my memory till my latest day. 

'■3 RepresentationoftheNaibDiwan. — Consultations, ist February 
1 77 1, Appendix B. 


becoming amenable to the law. In 1866, respect- 
able men in vast numbers went into the trade ; for 
Government, by publishing weekly returns of the 
rates in every district, rendered the traffic both easy 
and safe. Every one knew where to buy grain 
cheapest, and where to sell it dearest, and food 
was accordingly brought from the districts that 
could best spare it, and carried to those which 
most urgently needed it. Not only were prices 
equalized so far as possible throughout the stricken 
parts, but the publicity given to the high rates in 
Lower Bengal induced large shipments from the 
upper provinces, and the chief seat of the trade 
became unable to affDrd accommodation for landing 
the vast stores of grain brought down the river. 
Grain poured into the affected districts from all 
parts,— railways, canals, and roads vigorously doing 
their duty. 

It is impossible to say whether the Government, 
without the assistance and counsel of the English 
press in India, would have struck out this course ; 
but it is certain that from the very commencement 
the press urged this course upon the Government. 
It is equally certain, that in all the districts of Lower 
Bengal in which a non-official class of Englishmen 
resided and upon which English public opinion had 
in consequence been brought to bear, those measures 
obtained a high degree of success. Wherever the 
English planter or merchant goes, roads, railways, 
or canals are sure to follow him; and wherever these 
facilities for transport existed, the distribution of 


the general grain-stock took place to an extent that 
prevented scarcity from passing into famine/^ But, 
unhappily, there was a corner of Bengal in which 
the non-official Englishman seldom penetrates. The 
south-western districts, comprised under the general 
name of Orissa, possessed no English mercantile 
public, and had never expressed any desire for the 
means of intercommunication which is the first 
demand that such a public makes. They do not 
belong to the rest of the province either geographi- 
cally or historically, and no attempt had been made 
to unite them with it.^^ As far back as the records 
extend, Orissa has produced more grain than it can 
use.^*^ It is an exporting, not an importing province, 
sending away its surplus grain by sea, and neither 
requiring nor seeking any communication with 
Lower Bengal by land. During the earlier months 
of the scarcity it was known to have suffered like 
the rest of the province ; but neither the public nor 
the Government were aware that a greater propor- 
tion of the crops had been lost in Orissa than in 
the other districts ; ^^ and the native merchants, 
relying on the general superabundance of grain, 

'■■* That there is a practical distinction between scarcity and 
famine, and a well-recognised point at which the former passes into 
the latter, the highest authorities acknowledge. — Papers, etc., relating- 
to the famine in Bengal, presented to Parliament. Vol. i. p. 364. Folio. 

^^ Famine Commissioners' Report (1866), Part i. sees. 32, 46, 
412, etc. 

'■^ Famine Commissioners' Report (1866), Part i. sec. 47, etc. 

" Indeed, it was impossible to estimate the return, as the Com- 
missioners truly observe, till the grain was threshed out in January ; 
the amount of straw being, under the circumstances, a fallacious index. 
— Report, Part i. sec. 112. 


while curtailing their export transactions saw no 
necessity for importing.'^ Towards the middle of 
February, however, it began to be perceived that 
there was something special in the condition of 
Orissa. The truth was, that the abundant importa- 
tion and distribution which had tended to make 
good the failure of the harvest in the rest of the 
province had never reached Orissa. No one had 
suspected that it would pay to carry grain by a long 
sea route to districts that have always a large 
quantity to export, and which, long after the rest 
of the province had begun its preparations for a 
year of famine, allowed a million and a half pounds 
of the precious commodity to leave its shores. In 
March, when at length it became generally under- 
stood that Orissa was destitute of rice, exportation 
and importation were alike impossible. The south- 
west monsoon had set in. The harbours of Orissa, 
never open more than a part of the year, had 
become impracticable. The only landward route 
was wholly unfit for the transport of sufficient food 
for the country, and the doomed population found 
themselves utterly isolated, ' in the condition of 
passengers In a ship without provisions.' "^ 

"'^ The general idea, both among the best informed officials and 
non-officials, was, that large private stores existed in the hands of 
speculators. ' The populace held it very decidedly ;' and the Com- 
missioner thought there was ' enough to supply the market for a 
couple of years.' In the total absence of a system of rural statistics, 
there was no evidence to controvert these views. — Report, Part i. 
sees. 192, 193, 195, 196, etc. 

'■^ Famine Report : ' On all the coast of Orissa, False Point 
excepted' (and its own peculiar difficulties the Commissioners else- 


This condition was precisely that in which the 
whole province of Lower Bengal found itself in 
1770. The want of means of intercommunication 
and transport rendered distribution impossible, even 
if Government had not deterred private merchants 
from undertaking the task. Importation on an 
adequate scale was impossible for the same reason. 
A single fact speaks volumes as to the isolation of 
each district. An abundant harvest, we are re- 
peatedly told, was as disastrous to the revenues as 
a bad one ; for when a large quantity of grain had 
to be carried to market the cost of carriage swal- 
lowed up the price obtained.^^ Indeed, even if the 
means of intercommunication and transport had 
rendered importation practicable, the province had 
at that time no money to give in exchange for food. 
Not only had its various divisions a separate cur- 
rency which would pass nowhere else except at a 
ruinous exchange,^^ but in that unfortunate year 
Bengal seems to have been utterly drained of its 

where explain), ' vessels of the ordinary size could only lie outside, 
exposed to the full force of the sea, and unload very slowly and with 
extreme difficulty during breaks of the boisterous monsoon weather.' 
— Sec. 290, Part i. Several vessels were wrecked or lost their cargo 
in the attempt. 

^•^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated loth November 1773, para. 33. Autobiography of the 
Honourable Robert Lindsay, Collector of Sylhet, 1778-88, in the 
' Lives of the Lindsays,' by Lord Lindsay, vol. iii. p. 207. 8vo. 
London, 1849. 

'^^ For example, the Narainy rupee of Bahar, the cowrie currency 
of Sylhet (of which little shells more than 2500 went to a shilling), 
etc. — Bengal letter, dated loth November 1773, para. 4. L O. R. 
Proceedings in the Public Department, Fort William, October 24, 
1792- C. O. R. Lives of the Lindsays, vol. iii. p. 170, etc. 


specie. Complaints of the deficiency of the currency 
are so common in the Manuscript Records as to 
blunt the reader's perception to the public distress 
implied. In 1769-70 things appear to have reached 
their worst point. In September 1769, the total 
balance in the treasury amounted to only ^3482, 
and the whole reserve in the Company's treasure 
chests to ^4679.^- Its commercial agents could 
not procure sufficient silver to make the customary 
advances for the investment, while private persons, 
finding it impossible to recover even good debts on 
account of the debtor's inability to obtain coin to pay 
them in, refused to have any commercial dealings, 
and trade came to a stand.^'^ This was the state of 
affairs at the beginning of the famine ; towards the 
end they were if possible worse. In August 1770, 
the Council, while quite willing to let Madras have 
the usual supply for its investment, are forced to 
confess that they have no specie by means of which 
to remit it."* 

The absence of the means of importation was 
the more to be deplored, as the neighbouring dis- 
tricts could easily have supplied grain. In the south- 
east a fair harvest had been reaped, except in 
circumscribed spots ; and we are assured that, during 
the famine, this part of Bengal was enabled to export 
without having to complain of any deficiency in 

*^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated 25th September 1769, para. 125. . I. O. R. 

^^ Ibid. para. 39. I. O. R. 

®^ Letter from the same to the same, dated 25th August 1770, 
para. 26. L O. R. 


consequence.^** The north-western districts at first 
seemed equally fortunate, and the Central Commit- 
tee, in reply to the lamentations of the Supervisor 
of Bahar, bitterly remark : ' Your neighbours, enjoy- 
ing the blessing of almost a plentiful season, whilst 
you are suffering the evils of dearth and famine, 
exhibits but an unpleasant contrast and rather 
wounds the credit of English policy.' ^^ Indeed, 
no matter how local a famine might be in the last 
century, the effects were equally disastrous. Sylhet, 
a district in the north-east of Bengal, had reaped 
unusually plentiful harvests in 1780 and 1 781, but 
the next crop was destroyed by a local inundation, 
and notwithstanding the facilities for importation 
afforded by water-carriage one-third of the people 
died. The same thing took place in 1784 when 
two-thirds of the cattle perished.'^'' 

In 1866 the existence of an extensive trade 
with Europe enabled Bengal, with the exception of 
Orissa, to purchase as much food from other pro- 
vinces as it required. Importation of grain was a 
profitable investment for capital, and capital flowed 
abundantly into that channel. The whole harvests 
of Northern India were laid under contribution to 
make good the deficiency of a single province, thus 
reducing the inevitable suffering to a minimum, and 

^^^ Consultations, 28th April 1770, etc. 

^^ Consultations, 3d May 1770. Importation from the north was 
subsequently prohibited, and high prices ruled there also. 

^^ Report of the Honourable Robert Lindsay, Collector of Sylhet, 
dated 3d September 1784; Famine Report, 1866. Lives of the 
Lindsays, by Lord Lindsay, vol. iii. 208 (1849). 



preventing the loss of life, deplorably great as it 
undoubtedly was in isolated places, from anywhere 
amounting to depopulation. 

Before quitting the subject of dearths I wish to 
explain the two circumstances which regulate their 
intensity, and the method by which they may be 
counteracted. Famine in India is caused by natu- 
ral scarcity, resulting from the deficiency of the 
crops, and more or less severe in proportion as the 
crops have been more or less completely destroyed. 
Inundations may cause temporary scarcity, but the 
losses of low-lying localities are usually made up 
by the subsequent abundance on the high grounds. 
On the other hand, drought, v/hen sufficiently 
intense to destroy the December harvest, results 
in famine. The practical effects of famine depend, 
however, on its actual pressure as indicated by the 
rise in prices. Under native government and in 
1770 under the Company's first attempt at admini- 
stration, the actual pressure of a famine held a direct 
ratio to the natural scarcity. If the crops perished 
the people died : the actual pressure was in propor- 
tion to the natural scarcity, and the natural scarcity 
to the actual pressure. But the whole tendency 
of modern civilisation is to raise up intervening 
influences which render the relation of actual pres- 
sure to natural scarcity less certain and less direct, 
until the two terms which were once convertible 
come to have very little connection with each other. 
This is what has taken place in India during the 
last fifty years, as the two following examples show. 

FAMINES OF i^2>l AND 1861. 51 

The north-western, provinces of Bengal have 
twice been visited during that period by a season 
of terrible drought. On both occasions the pro- 
portion of the crops destroyed appears to have 
been the same, and the official estimate reports the 
natural scarcity as nearly equal.'' The first took 
place in 1837, the second in 1860-61. In 1837, 
India was on the point of being thrown unreservedly 
open to European enterprise, but the change had 
not taken place. Railways Avere not; roads and 
watercourses were scarcely more numerous than 
in the time of Aurungzebe ; non-official English 
influence, and the facilities for transport that such 
influence everywhere procures, were confined to the 
immediate vicinity of the great towns ; nor had that 
vast store of surplus capital, ever keenly on the look- 
out for investment, been developed, which forms 
so striking a feature in the mercantile economy of 
Bengal at the present day. In short, the break- 
waters which modern civilisation raises up between 
natural scarcity and its actual pressure had not yet 
been constructed and the ancient monotonous story 
of starvation was repeated. Notwithstanding the 
efforts of the Government, then presided over by 
a nobleman of remarkable private humanity, the 
deaths rose to twelve hundred per diem in two of 
the principal towns ; *^ in the open country the 

^^ Colonel Baird Smith's Report. — Papers presented to Parliament 
(1867) relative to the Bengal famine. Folio. Vol. i. p. 230. 

^^ This statement is based upon the correspondence of a member 
of the principal Relief Committee. The statistics are more fully given 
in my ' Rural Sketches,' published in Calcutta. 


people perished by villages, and nine months of 
famine left the whole rural system disorganized. 
But during the next quarter of a century India 
advanced towards civilisation by forced marches, 
and the drought of i860 found its effects checked 
by a hundred counteracting influences unknown in 
1837. The natural scarcity was the same, but 
abundance of capital existed to buy food from 
other provinces, and the newly constructed railways 
with their network of roads cheaply and rapidly 
effected its distribution. The Grand Trunk Road, 
a work of Roman solidity, is officially reported to 
have been worn out in fifteen days;^^ 'every cart, 
bullock, camel, donkey, in short, every means of 
conveyance available in the country ' was pressed 
into the service, and the principal railway stations 
were at length blocked up with grain."° While 
private enterprise thus intervened between the 
natural scarcity and the actual pressure, private 
charity provided for that section of the people 
whose earnings just suffice to keep them alive in 
seasons of ordinary fertility ; a section which will 
always be thrown upon the public benevolence 
during a scarcity, as long as the present relations 
of labour and capital continue in Bengal. 

The second example is derived from the two 
famines that have visited the lower provinces in 
1770 and 1866. In this instance very little evi- 
dence exists for comparing the natural scarcity. 

^^ Famine Commissioners' Report (1866), Part i. para. 73. 
'-'» Idem. 

FAMINES OF iT^o AND 1866. 53 

But we know that in 1866 one corner of Beno-al — 
Orissa — was, so far as the intervening influences 
which prevent natural scarcity passing into actual 
pressure, exactly in the position of the whole pro- 
vince in 1770. In these similarly situated parts the 
actual pressure, as indicated by the price of rice, 
was precisely the same in both famines, the maxi- 
mum being fourpence and the average over two- 
pence a pound. It should be remembered, however, 
that silver was dearer then than now. The propor- 
tion of the crops lost seems also to have been equal. 
In the districts of Orissa which suffered most in 
1866 and in Rajmahal, one of the districts which 
suffered most in 1770, the preceding harvests were 
officially estimated to have yielded less than one- 
half their average produce,^^ and any superiority 
of the early Orissa harvests in 1865 to those of 
Rajmahal in 1769 was more than counterbalanced 
by subsequent exportations from the Orissa sea- 
board. It may be inferred, therefore, that the 
natural scarcity was the same. The actual pressure 
happily proved very different. In 1770 the natural 
scarcity passed in a direct and unmitigated form 
into actual pressure. Before the middle of the year 
ten millions of the general population had perished ; 
at the end of it, an official reports that of a certain 
poor class — the lime-workers — only five out of one 
hundred and fifty were living, °^ and one-third of 

^^ Famine Commissioners' Report (1866), Part i. para. 74. Re- 
port of Mr. Harwood, Supervisor of Rajmahal, Consultations, 28th 
April 1770, etc. 

^^ Consultations, nth February 1771. 


the country had returned to jungle. In 1866, roads, 
railways, canals, toiled day and night in bringing 
grain from other provinces, till at length the port'*'' 
at which the railway taps the river system of Lower 
Bengal became unable to afford accommodation for 
landing the unprecedented cargoes, and the Railway 
Company had to seek the assistance of the autho- 
rities to prevent native shipmasters from unlading 
on its lines and sidings. One corner of Lower 
Bengal, however, continued in the same isolated 
state in 1866 in which the whole province found 
itself in 1770, and it was reserved for the unhappy 
people of Orissa to experience what happens when 
the actual pressure of a dearth is equal to the 
natural scarcity, and to illustrate to modern times 
the meaning of the ancient word famine. 

The preventives of famine belong to two dis- 
tinct classes ; those that tend to avert natural 
scarcity, and those that are directed towards the 
development of intervening influences between 
natural scarcity and actual pressure. Natural 
scarcity may be averted either by Government 
undertaking works of irrigation and drainage at 
its own expense, or by giving the landed classes a 
permanent tide to the soil, — thus inducing them to 
enter on such works by securing to them the profits. 
Orissa in 1866 was in this respect in the position of 
the whole of the province in 1770 : it had neither a 
permanent settlement ^* nor any adequate irrigatigfi 

*3 Kooshtea. This incident took place In my own court. 

»* Just before the famine commenced, the native landholders of 


works maintained by the State, and it was the only 
part of Low-er Bengal in which the scenes of 1770 
were re-enacted.^^ 

The second set of preventives, those that tend 
to raise up breakwaters between natural scarcity 
and actual pressure, is a very large one. Every 
measure that helps towards the extension of com- 
merce and the growth of capital, every measure 
that increases the facilities of transport and distri- 
bution, comes under this class. Whatever tends 
to develop the natural resources of a country, to 
call forth a spirit of enterprise among its inhabit- 
ants, to render each part less dependent on itself, 
and to bind up the commonwealth by the ties of 
mutual assistance and common interest, tends to 
mitigate the actual pressure of a famine. The 
whole list may be expressed by four words — 
enlio-htened eovernment and modern civilisation. 
These are the specifics for famine. Where they 
exist, scarcity will never result in depopulation ; 
where they do not, the utmost endeavours of 
Government may mitigate but they cannot avert. 
Nevertheless, the two formal specifics may be 
assisted by subsidiary relief efforts, such as public 
works and organized public charity. 

Where natural scarcity passes directly into 
actual pressure, two exceptional measures have 

Bengal had represented the discouragement to cultivation which the 
postponement of a permanent settlement caused in Orissa. 

9^ Except that in 1866 there was no cannibalism, and the total 
loss of population in all Bengal was three-quarters of a million 
instead of ten millions. 


been employed, with various degrees of success, to 
take the extreme edge off famine. The one is an 
embargo on exportation, the other is importation 
at the State expense. Both are dangerous ex- 
pedients, and their success (when successful) im- 
plies that the ordinary laws of political economy 
cannot be applied to the case ; in other words, that 
modern civilisation and enlightened government 
have yet to begin their work. This was the 
condition of Lower Bengal in 1770 and of Orissa, 
its south-western corner, in 1866.^" 

Before the commencement of 1771, one-third 
of a generation of peasants had been swept from 
the face of the earth and a whole generation of 
once rich families had been reduced to indigence. 
Every district reiterated the same tale. The 
revenue farmers — a wealthy class who then stood 
forth as the visible government to the common 
people— being unable to realize the land-tax, were 
stripped of their office, their persons imprisoned, 
and their lands, the sole dependence of their 
families, re-let." The ancient houses of Bengal, 
who had enjoyed a semi-independence under the 
Moghuls and whom the British Government sub- 
sequently acknowledged as the lords of the soil, 
fared still worse. From the year 1770 the ruin of 

^•^ The Famine Commissioners, while admitting that cases may 
occur in which Government may wisely undertake importation, deny 
that it should ever interfere with exportation. I suspect Mr. Mill's 
arguments apply to both cases. 

^'^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated Fort-William, loth November 1773. I. O, R. 


two-thirds of the old aristocracy of Lower Bengal 
dates. The Maharajah of Burdwan, whose province 
had been the first to cry out and the last to which 
plenty returned, died miserably towards the end of 
the famine, leaving a treasury so empty that the 
heir had to melt down the family plate, and when 
this was exhausted to beg a loan from the Govern- 
ment, in order to perform his father's obsequies.*'^ 
Sixteen years later, we find the unfortunate young 
prince unable to satisfy the Government demands, 
a prisoner in his own palace.^*^ This was the repre- 
sentative of a line which had possessed houses and 
lands along all the principal routes, so that how- 
ever far its chief might travel, he never slept out 
of his own jurisdiction. The present Maharajah 
enjoys a revenue reputed to exceed a hundred 
thousand sterling, and administers his estates by 
means of a body of advisers that closely Imitates 
the Imperial Council in Calcutta. The Rajah of 
Nuddea, another powerful nobleman of the last 
century,^°° emerged from the famine impoverished 
and in disgrace, very thankful, it would seem, to 
have the management of his estates taken out of 


his own hands and vested In his son.^^^ The pro- 

^^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated 25th August 1770, para. 52. I. O. R. 

^^ From the Collector of Burdwan to the Board of Revenue, dated 
1 6th May 1786. Bn. R. 

^"" An account of this family is preserved in the Kshitisha Ban- 
savali Charitam. Ed. Berlin, 1852. 

I'^i Letter from the President and Council to the Court of 
Directors, dated Fort-William, loth November 1773, paras. 8, 11, 


prietrix of Rajshie,^°^ a lady of remarkable talent 
for public business, retained the control of her 
district ; but soon afterwards, being unable to pay 
the revenue, was threatened with dispossession, the 
sale of her lands, and the withdrawal of her Govern- 
ment allowance. ^''^ It would be easy to multiply 
examples. We shall afterwards view the ruin of 
the western districts more in detail. Meanwhile 
it is enough to say that when the local records 
open, they disclose the Rajah of Beerbhoom hardly 
permitted to pass the first year of his majority 
before being confined for arrears of revenue, and 
the venerable Rajah of Bishenpore, after weary 
years of duress, let out of prison only to die. 

In a country whose inhabitants live entirely by 
agriculture, depopulation is always followed by a 
proportionate area of the land falling out of tillage, 
Bengal had lost one-third of its people and one- 
third of its surface speedily became waste. Three 
years after the famine, so much land lay unculti- 
vated that the Council begfan to devise measures 
for tempting the subjects of native princes to 
migrate into its dominions.^"^ While the province 
in general was rack-rented to supply the pressing 
necessities of the Company in England, Warren 
Hastings interposed on behalf of the frontier, in 
order that there might be such a show of lenity as 

^''^ The Rani Banwari. 

^"^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Direc- 
tors, dated 15th March 1774, para. 6. 

^^* From the same to the same, dated loth November 1773, para. 


to ' procure a supply of inhabitants from the neigh- 
bouring districts of the Nabob Vizier.' In 1776 
the scarcity of cultivators had completely transposed 
the relations of landlord and tenant in Bengal. 
Formerly there had been more husbandmen want- 
ing land than could obtain holdings; the only means 
of earning a livelihood was agriculture ; emigration 
was unknown ; the whole peasantry fell into the 
power of the landlords or revenue-farmers, and a 
cry of rural oppression arose such as has never been 
heard before or after. To this state of things, the 
result of a series of unusually plentiful crops at the 
beginning of the century,^**^ the famine of 1770 put 
an end, and even a new-comer could see that there 
was more land awaiting cultivation than there were 
husbandmen to till it. 'In the present state of the 
country,' wrote Mr. Francis in 1776, 'the ryot has 
the advantaee over the zemindar. Where so much 
land lies waste, and so few hands are left for culti- 
vation, the peasant must be courted to undertake 
it.'^*'*' By degrees the agricultural population divided 
itself into two classes : the so-called resident culti- 
vators ^^^ who, from attachment to their ancient 
homes, or, as was much more frequently the case, by 
reason of indebtedness to their landlord, continued on 

^^^ One year rice sold at more than a hundred pounds for a 
shilhng ; and tradition relates that a governor of Dacca shut up a 
gate until the price should again fall to the lowest rate reached during 
his reign, viz. one hundred and fifty pounds for a shilling. 

106 Minute by Mr. Francis.— Revenue Consultations of the 5th 
November 1776. I. O. R. 

107 Khud-kasht. 


the same estate as before the famine ; and a more 
adventurous class, termed non-resident or vagrant 
cultivators,^*'^ who threw up their previous holdings 
and went in search of new ones at the lower rates 
to which depopulation had reduced the market 
value of land. Within six years after the famine 
this classification had distinctly taken place, and the 
non-resident ryots who had previously formed an 
insignificant and degraded order continued during 
thirty years the most prominent feature in the rural 
system, of Bengal. In old times, the non-resident 
cultivators wandered weariedly through the pro- 
vince because they could nowhere find land ; after 
1770, cultivators joined the non-resident class be- 
cause they could find land everywhere cheaper than 
the old rates, and a collector, when wishing to 
imply that an English gentleman had received his 
land on advantageous terms, briefly describes him 
as 2i paikasht ryot (non-resident cultivator). 

For the first fifteen years after the famine de- 
population steadily increased. During a scarcity it 
is the children on whom the calamity falls with the 
heaviest weight, and until 1785 the old died off 
without there being any rising generation to step 
into their places. ^'^^ To add to the general misery 
the most violent feuds broke out among the landed 
proprietors. One-third of their land lay unculti- 

^''^ Paikasht. The English renderings given above are those of 
Hastings and Francis. 

10^ In Beerbhoom, for example. — Letter from Christopher Keating, 
Esq., Collector, to John Shore, Esq., President of the Board of Re- 
venue, dated 3d July 1789. B. R. R. 


vated and each began to entice away the tenants 
of his neighbour, by offering protection against 
judicial proceedings and farms at very low rents."*' 
As they became more impoverished they went on 
bidding more eagerly against one another for the 
husbandmen, till at length the non-resident class 
obtained their holdings at half-rates."^ The resident 
cultivators, unable to compete on these terms, threw 
up their farms. They had formerly been the 
wealthiest order of the tillers of the soil, but now 
they began to look on themselves as an injured 
class, and so general became the desertion that in 
1 784, Parliament, acquainted with the signs of out- 
ward decay but ignorant of its causes, ordered an 
inquiry into the reasons that had compelled the 
agricultural classes ' to abandon and relinquish their 
lands.' "^ A province cannot be re-peopled, how- 
ever, by Act of Parliament. The land remained 
untilled, and in 1789, Lord Cornwallis, after three 
years' vigilant inquiry, pronounced one-third of the 
Company's territories in Bengal to be ' a jungle in- 
habited only by wild beasts,'"^ 

^^'* Letter from Christopher Keating, Esq., Collector, to John 
Shore, Esq., President of the Board of Revenue, dated 30th August 

1789. From the Board of Revenue to the Collector, dated loth May 

1790, etc. B. R. R. 

^^1 Strictures and Observations on the Mocurrery System of 
Landed Property in Bengal, by Gurreeb Doss ; with Replies. 8vo. 
London, 1794. This is a reprint of a somewhat acrimonious dis- 
cussion between Mr. J. Prinsep and Mr. Thos. Law in the Morning 
Chronicle during 1792. O. C. 

"2 24 Geo. III. 39. O. C. 

113 Minute of the Governor- General, September 18, 1789. See 
also his letter to the Court of Directors, dated 2d August 1789. 


Such was the general state of the province when 
it passed under British rule. The western princi- 
palities, Beerbhoom and Bishenpore, which form 
the special subject of this volume, had borne their 
full share of the national calamity. In 1765, four 
years before the famine, Beerbhoom had been culti- 
vated by close on six thousand rural communes, 
each with a hamlet in the centre of its lands. "^ 
In 1 77 1, three years after the famine, only four 
thousand five hundred of these little communities 
survived. ^^^ The cultivators fled from the open 
country to the cities ; but ' even in the large towns,' 
wrote a Beerbhoom official in 1771, 'there is not 
a fourth part of the houses inhabited.' ^^^ The 
following year, i']J2-jt^, is memorable for the first 
attempt which Warren Hastings made to adjust the 
land-tax independently of the Mussulman Minister 
of the Interior, and the native subordinates, eager 
to find favour with the redoubted Eno-lishman, 
returned the number of communes at nearly a 
hundred more than in 1771-72."^ But the fact 
could not be concealed : depopulation went steadily 
on till 1785, when the number had sunk to four 
thousand four hundred, and of the six thousand 
prosperous communes in 1765 close on fifteen 

11"* Letter from the Collector to the Board of Revenue, dated 3d 
July 1789, etc. B. R. R. 

1^^ Hustabood Accounts and Papers for the Bengah Year 1178 
(a.d. 1771-72). Board of Revenue. C. O. R. 

"'^ Report of the Supervisor, Mr. Higginson, dated 22d February 
1771. I. O. R. 

^^■^ Beerbhoom Hustabood. — Letter from Collector to Board of 
Revenue, dated 3d July 1789. B. R. R. 


hundred had disappeared and their lands relapsed 
to jungle/^* Even among those that were not 
altogether abandoned many square miles of the 
richest country lay untilled, and one set of revenue 
agents after another failed to wring the land-tax out 
of the people. In 1772, the old farmers having 
thrown up their task in despair were superseded 
and dragged down to the debtors' prison in Cal- 
cutta for arrears. At each new adjustment of the 
revenue the same thing took place ; the hereditary 
prince excusing himself from remitting the land-tax 
to the English treasury, on the grounds that the 
revenue agents could not collect it, and the revenue 
agents being cast without mercy into dungeons. 
When the British undertook the direct management 
of the district, nearly twenty years after the famine, 
they found the jail filled with revenue prisoners, 
not one of whom had a prospect of regaining his 
liberty."^ For this state of things the Rajah was 
not alone responsible. While the country every 
year became a more total waste, the English 
Government constantly demanded an increased 
land-tax. In 1771 more than one-third of the 
culturable land was returned in the public accounts 
as ' Deserted;'^-" in 1776 the entrieg in this column 
exceed one-half of the whole chsttt^v lOur acres 
lying waste for every seven that remained under 

^^^ The exact number was 1445. 

"'■• Letters from Collector to Board of Revenue, dated ist August 
1789, etc. B. R. R. 

^^° Palatika. Hustabood accounts of Beerbhoom for the Bengali 
year 1178. C, O. R. 


cultivation/-'^ On the other hand, the Company 
increased its demand from less than ^^ 100,000 
sterling in 1772, to close on ^112,000 in 1776. 
The villagers were dragooned into paying the land- 
tax by Mussulfnan troops, but notwithstanding the 
utmost severities the receipts seldom amounted to 
much more than one-half of the demand. ^^^ 

The state of Beerbhoom at the end of the famine 
of 1770 will be found officially described by eye- 
witnesses in Appendix B. Ten years later we find 
the district a sequestered and an impassable jungle. 
In ancient times it had been the highway of armies, 
the favourite battle-field on which was more than 
once decided the fate of Bengal; in 1780 a small 
body of Sepoys could with difficulty force their way 
through its forests. For 120 miles, says a con- 
temporary newspaper correspondent, probably one 
of the officers of the party, ' they marched through 
but an extensive wood, all the way a perfect wilder- 
ness ; sometimes a small village presented itself in 
the midst of these jungles, with a little cultivated 
ground around it, hardly sufficient to encamp the 
two battalions. These woods abound with timers 
and bears, which infested the camp every night, but 
did no other damage than carrying off a child and 

1-^ Hustabood accounts of Beerbhoom for the BengaH year 1183. 
C. O. R. 

Government Demand. 

Actual Receipt 


• ^99>4i3 






• 101,799 






I c 4,482 



killing some of the gentlemen's hackery bullocks.' ^^^ 
The narrator, judging by the obstacles of the route, 
and ignorant of the past history of the district, 
magnified the march into an achievement never 
before accomplished, and nine years later, the 
jungle continued so dense as to shut off all com- 
munication between the two most important towns, 
and to cause the mails to be carried by a circuit 
of fifty miles through another district/^^ 

As the little rural communities relinquished their 
hamlets, and drew closer together towards the centre 
of the district, the wild beasts pressed hungrily on 
their rear. In vain the Company offered a reward 
for each tiger's head, sufficient to maintain a peasant's 
family in comfort for three months ; an item of ex- 
penditure it deemed so necessary, that when, under 
extraordinary pressure, it had to suspend all pay- 
ments, the tiger -money and diet allowance for 
prisoners were the sole exceptions to the rule.^^^ 
A belt of jungle, filled with wild beasts, formed 
round each village ; the official records frequently 
speak of the mail-bag being carried off by wild 
beasts ;^"^ and after fruitless injunctions to the land- 
holders to clear the forests. Lord Cornwallis was 
at length compelled to sanction a public grant to 
keep open the new military road that passed through 

^23 Micky's Gazette, Calcutta, 29th April 1780. 

124 Bill for Contingent Charges, dated 29th May 1789. B. R. R. 

125 Letters from the Accountant-General to the Collector of Beer- 
bhoom, dated 29th December 1790 and 28th January 1791. B. R. R. 

126 Letters from Board of Revenue to Collector, dated nth Febru- 
ary 1789, etc. B. R. R. 



Beerbhoom.^^^ The ravages of the wild elephants 
were on a larger scale, and their extermination 
formed one of the most important duties of the 
Collector for some time after the district passed 
directly under British rule. In two parishes alone, 
during the last few years of the native administra- 
tion, fifty-six villages with their communal lands 
' had all been destroyed and gone to jungle, caused 
by the depredations of the wild elephants ;'^^^ and 
an official return states that forty market towns 
throughout the district had been deserted from the 
same cause. The Rajah petitioned the Company 
to use its influence with the Nawab of BengaP^^ to 
procure the loan of the Viceregal stud of tame ele- 
phants, in order to catch the wild ones.^^*^ The bag 
was to be made over to his Highness as payment. 
This assistance not being obtained, the Rajah for- 
mally applied for a reduction of the land-tax, in 
consequence of the district being depopulated by 
wild elephants. The Collector reported the claim 
to be just. ' I had ocular proof, on my journey to 
Deoghur,' he writes ; ' marks of their ravages re- 
maining. The poor timid native ties his cot in a 
tree, to which he retires when the elephants ap- 
proach, and silently views the destruction of his 

^27 Letters from Board of Revenue to Collector, dated nth Febru- 
ary 1789, 30th April 1790, etc. B. R. R. 

^28 From the Collector of Beerbhoom to the Board of Revenue, 
dated April 1790. B. R. R. 

129 Mabarak-ad-Daulat. 

130 From the Collector to the Board, dated 15th October 1790; 
and the Board's reply, dated 26th idem. B. R. R. 


cottage, and all the profits of his labour. I saw 
some of these retreats in my journey, and had the 
cause of them explained. In Bealputta very few- 
inhabitants remain ; and the zemindar's fears for 
the neighbouring purgunnahs will certainly be real- 
ized in the course of a few years, if some method 
is not fallen on to extirpate those destructive 
animals. '^^^ 

It is difficult for Englishmen, accustomed from 
boyhood to fire-arms, to comprehend the defence- 
less state of a peasantry armed only with spears 
and bows against the larger sorts of wild beasts. 
It is not lack of courage, as every Englishman who 
has hunted with beaters in the jungles will testify. 
Indeed, the intrepid skill with which a band of 
Beerbhoom hill-men surround a tiger, never ceases 
to astonish those who know the risk. But the 
herd of elephants is resistless ; lifting off roofs, 
pushing down walls, trampling a village under foot, 
as if it were a city of sand that a child had built 
upon the shore. ' Most fortunately for the popula- 
tion of the country,' wrote the greatest elephant- 
hunter of that period, ' they delight in the seques- 
tered range of the mountain ; did they prefer the 
plain, whole kingdoms would be laid waste. '^^^ In 
many parts of the country the peasantry did not 
dare to sleep in their houses, lest they should be 

^^^ From the Collector to the Board, dated 6th August 1791. 
B. R. R. 

^^2 Autobiography of the Hon. Robert Lindsay, Collector of 
Sylhet ; circ. 1778 to 1789. Lives of the Lindsays, by Lord Lindsay, 
vol. iii. p. 190. 


buried beneath them during the night, and as 
late as 1810 the surveyor of a district a Httle to 
the north of Beerbhoom reports : ' The alarm that 
the elephants occasion is exceedingly great. One 
night that I lay close to the hills, although I had a 
guard, the men of the village close by my tents 
retired at nlsfht to the trees, and the women hid 
themselves among the cattle, leaving their huts a 
prey to the elephants, who know very well where to 
look for grain. Two nights before, some of them 
had unroofed a hut in the village, and had eaten 
up all the grain which a poor family had preserved 
in its earthen store. '^^'^ It is right to add, that wild 
elephants, although they may have become more 
troublesome as the jungle absorbed the cultivated 
land after the famine, were dreaded devastators 
long before 1770. Even in the most prosperous 
period of the Mussulman rule they infested what 
are now the richest districts of Bengal, and formed 
the chief, sometimes indeed the sole, revenue that 
could be obtained from large and fertile pro- 

The evil seems to have reached its climax about 
1786. From this year English supervision, more 
or less direct, dates in Beerbhoom. The agri- 
culturalists were by no means the only class who 
fled before the tiger and wild elephant. The 

^23 History, Antiquities, etc., of Eastern India, from the Buchanan 
Papers in the E. I. House, vol. ii. p. 14. 

12* Analysis of the Bengali Poem Raj-Mala, by the Rev. James 
Long, p. 19. Pamphlet, 8vo, Calcutta. Lives of the Lindsays, 
vol. iii. p. 163, etc. 


earliest English records disclose the forest hamlets 
of the iron-smelters deserted ; the charcoal-burners 
driven from their occupation by wild beasts ; many 
factories and market towns abandoned ; the cattle 
trade, which then formed an important branch of 
the district's commerce, at a stand ; and the halting- 
places, where herds used to rest and fodder on their 
way from the mountains to the plains, written down 
as waste. ^^^ 

But tigers and wild elephants were not the most 
cruel enemies of the peasant. The English found 
Bengal in the hands of banditti, and the names 
of successful leaders of the last century, such as 
Strong-fisted Khan,^^^ to be found in every native 
history, tell a story of rapine and oppression not 
difficult to read. Many of the principal families 
throughout the country, being dispossessed by the 
Mussulman tax-gatherers in whole or part of their 
lands, lived by plunder ; the only difference between 
the highland and lowland proprietors being, that 
the former marauded more openly and on a larger 
scale. The latter, indeed, found it more profitable 
to shelter banditti on their estates, levying black- 
mail from the surrounding villages as the price of 
immunity from depredation, and sharing in the 
plunder of such as would not come to terms. 
Their country-houses were robber strongholds, and 
the early English administrators of Bengal have left 

'^^^ Letter from the Collector of Beerbhoom to the Board of Re- 
venue, dated 9th October 1789. B. R. R. 

^^'^ Zabbar-dast Khan, famous in the adjoining district of Burdwan. 


it on record, that a gang-robbery never occurred 
without a landed proprietor being at the bottom of 
it/" Bands of cashiered soldiers, the dregs of the 
Mussulman armies, roamed about, plundering as 
they went. They frequently dressed themselves 
in the Company's uniform, with a view to wholesale 
extortion from the villagers, — a fraud rendered so 
plausible by the disorderly conduct of our own 
troops on the line of march, that a series of stringent 
enactments failed to put it down. Lawlessness 
breeds lawlessness, and the miserable peasantry, 
stripped of their hoard for the winter, were forced 
to become plunderers in turn. Early in 1771, the 
local officers report ' the frequent firing of villages 
by the people, whose distress drives them to such 
acts of despair and villany. Numbers of ryots, 
who have hitherto borne the first of characters 
among their neighbours, pursue this last resource to 
procure themselves a subsistence.'^^* They formed 
themselves into bands of so-called houseless de- 
votees,^^^ and roved about the country in armies 
fifty thousand strong. ' A set of lawless banditti,' 
wrote the Council in 1773, * known under the name 
of Sanyasis or Faquirs, have long infested these 
countries ; and, under pretence of religious pil- 
grimage, have been accustomed to traverse the 
chief part of Bengal, begging, stealing, and plunder- 

^^" Answers to Interrogatories, circulated in 1801. 
^^^ Letter of Mr. Rous, the Supervisor of Rajshie, flated 13th 
April 177 1. I. O. R. 
^^^ Sanyassis. 


ing wherever they go, and as it best suits their 
convenience to practise. '^*^ In the years subsequent 
to the famine, their ranks were swollen by a crowd 
of starving peasants who had neither seed nor 
implements to recommence cultivation with, and 
the cold weather of 1772 brought them down upon 
the harvest fields of Lower Bengal, burning, plun- 
dering, ravaging, ' in bodies of fifty thousand 
men.'^*^ The collectors called out the military ; 
but after a temporary success our Sepoys ' were at 
length totally defeated, and Captain Thomas (their 
leader), with almost the whole party, cut off.'^^" It 
was not till the close of the winter that the Council 
could report to the Court of Directors, that a 
battalion, under an experienced commander, had 
acted successfully against them ; ^*^ and a month 
later we find that even this tardy intimation had 
been premature. On the 31st March 1773, Warren 
Hastings plainly acknowledges that the commander 
who had succeeded Captain Thomas ' unhappily 
underwent the same fate ; ' that four battalions of 
the army were then actively engaged against the 
banditti, but that, in spite of the militia levies called 
from the landholders, their combined operations 
had been fruitless. The revenue could not be col- 
lected, the inhabitants made common cause with 

"0 Letter from the President and Council (Secret Department) to 
the Court of Directors, dated 15th January 1773, para. 13. I. O. R. 

1*1 From the same to the same, dated ist March 1773, para. 16, 
etc. I. O. R. 

^*2 From the same to the same, dated 15th January 1773. I- O. R. 

1*3 Letter of ist March, para. 16. L O. R. 


the marauders, and the whole rural administration 
was unhinged. Such incursions were annual epi- 
sodes in what some have been pleased to represent 
as the still life of Bengal. 

Besides those whom destitution or natural de- 
pravity had driven to rapine, there existed numerous 
and prosperous clans who practised robbery as a 
hereditary calling. The Thugs and Dacoits thought 
none the worse of themselves for their profession, 
and were regarded by their countrymen with an awe 
which in India at that time could hardly be dis- 
tinguished from veneration. ' I am a Thug of the 
royal records,' one of them was good enough to 
explain to an English officer ; ' I and my fathers 
have been Thugs for twenty generations.' ' I have 
always followed the trade of my ancestors,' urged 
a celebrated Dacoit ; ' my ancestors held this pro- 
fession before me, and we train boys in the same 
manner,' said another. So much has been brought 
to light by the Thuggee and Dacoitee Commissions, 
that I must confine myself to the five-and-twenty 
years during which the rural administration was 
slowly passing into English hands. ^*^ ' The Dacoits 
of Bengal,' so runs a State paper written in 1772, 
'are not, like the robbers in England, individuals 
driven to such desperate courses by sudden want. 
They are robbers by profession, and even by birth. 
They are formed into regular communities, and 

^^* An account of Thuggee and Dacoitee in later years will be 
found in Mr. Kaye's admirable 'Administration of the East India 
Company,' part iii. chap. ii. and iii. 


their families subsist by the spoils which they bring 
home to them.'^*^ These spoils were frequently 
brought from great distances ; villages high up the 
Ganges lived by housebreaking in Calcutta ; and 
Warren Hastings distinctly realized that, if the 
crime were to be put down, not only the actual de- 
predators, but also the remote sharers in the booty, 
must be united in one common punishment. He 
went about the work in that straightforward, incisive 
manner which he always adopted when he had 
an unpleasant task in hand. He commanded that 
every convicted Dacoit should be executed ; that he 
should be ' executed in all the forms and terrors of 
the law ' in his native village ; that his whole family 
should be made slaves ; and that every inhabitant 
of the village should be fined. In spite of these 
severities, however, Dacoitee continued to flourish 
for more than three-quarters of a century in Bengal. 
The Dacoits generally effected their depredations in 
bands of from five to one hundred, by armed attacks 
in the villages, and in the large towns under cover 
of confusion occasioned by fire. The conflagrations 
that resulted threatened to destroy whole cities. In 
March 1 780, a fire occurred in Calcutta that burned 
down fifteen thousand houses. Nearly two hundred 
people perished in the flames."^ Clear cases of in- 
cendiarism are constantly recorded, and at length 

^■*^ Letter from the Committee of Circuit to the Council at Fort 
WiUiam, dated Cossimbazaar, 15th August 1772. 

^^" Calcutta in the Olden Times, its People, by the Rev. J. Long, 
p. 37. Pamphlet, 8vo, Calcutta. 


it was gravely ' recommended that those owning 
straw-houses should have a long bamboo with three 
hooks at the end to catch the villains.' ^^^ Organized 
outrages were committed within ear-shot of what 
are now the most fashionable resorts of the capital. 
' A few nights ago,' the Calcutta paper of 1 780 
announced, ' four armed men entered the houses of 
a moorman near Chowringhee, and carried off his 
daughter.' Old inhabitants remember the time 
when no native would venture out at night with 
a good shawl on ; and it was the invariable practice, 
even in English mansions, for the porter to shut the 
outer door at the commencement of each meal, and 
not to open it till the butler brought him word that 
the plate was safely locked up. 

In Beerbhoom and along the western frontier 
these disorders had reached a pitch hardly to be 
distinguished from chronic civil war. ' For ages ' — 
an accurate antiquarian thus describes the inhabit- 
ants of the country adjoining Beerbhoom on the 
north — ' they were untamed thieves and murderers, 
engaging in forays on the plains ; while the Mussul- 
man zemindars, in reprisal, shot them as dogs.'^*^ 
The Rajah of Beerbhoom's territory embraced a 
large tract of low country, where the people lived 
within walled cities in a state of constant siege ; 
and an undefined but extensive hiehland rep:ion, 
inhabited by a race different in origin, in language, 

'^^~ Calcutta in the Olden Times, its People, by the Rev. J. Long, 
p. 37. Pamphlet, 8vo, Calcutta. 
^•'^ Rajmahal. Pamphlet, p. 21 . 


in religion, from the people of the plains, and sepa- 
rated from them by deadly and immemorial feuds. 
' From the time of the Mahomedan kings,' writes 
the revenue surveyor of an adjacent district, ' these 
hill people were the scourge and terror of the neigh- 
bouring districts, from whose inhabitants they levied 
black-mail ; and when that could not be obtained, 
armed bands, fully equipped with powerful bamboo 
bows and arrows, descended from the hills, murdered 
all who opposed their progress, pillaged the country 
far and near, and retreating to their jungly fortress, 
where no one dared to follow them, defied their 
victims. '^^^ In the province to the north of Beer- 
bhoom, for a hundred miles along the Ganges, no 
boat dared to moor after dark on the southern 
bank ; the mails were constantly robbed ; treasure 
parties were cut off; all traffic on the imperial road 
for a time ceased ; and a line of crumbling forts 
stretching south-west from Bhaugulpore still bears 
witness to the insecurity of life and property in the 
old debateable land. 

General statements, however, do not tell so 
strongly as particular facts ; and, lest some dulcet 
strain of Indian Bucolics, under hereditary chiefs, 
should still linger in the reader's memory, I shall 
relate minutely the experiences of Beerbhoom and 
Bishenpore during the first two years of which a 
complete record exists. The disorders which in- 
duced Lord Cornwallis to place the districts under 
the direct supervision of an English officer, have 

1*9 Captain SherwilFs Report, p. 26. Folio. C. O. R. 


been already narrated. The last letter referring 
to Beerbhoom under its native chief, gives notice 
that an organized raid by an army of banditti a 
thousand strong was about to take place.^^^ The 
first letter in the records of the English local ad- 
ministration thankfully acknowledges the arrival of 
a full company of Sepoys, and shortly after the 
detachment had to be doubled/®^ There is every 
reason to believe that, during the brief period which 
had intervened between these letters, the efforts of 
Mr. Sherbourne to repress the banditti had been, so 
far as the time permitted, successful ; and the fol- 
lowing pages present a picture modified and toned 
down, rather than exaggerated, of the state in which 
the English found Bengal, and of the legacy of 
troubles bequeathed to them by Mussulman mis- 

The chief English officer exercised, under the 
style of Collector, the functions of Commander-in- 
Chief and Civil Governor within his jurisdiction. 
The military side of his duties, indeed, received 
during several years undue prominence. At the 
beginning of each cold weather, when the great 
harvest of the year approached, he furnished the 
officer at the head of his troops with a list of passes 
which the Sepoys were to defend until the ban- 
ditti should retire into quarters for the next rainy 

i^** From Edward Otto Ives to the Governor- General in Council. 
B. J. R. 

1^1 From Christopher Keating, Esq., Collector, to the Board of 
Revenue, dated 22d November 1788. B. R. R. 


season. On a proposition being made to reduce 
the strength of his force, he plainly stated that he 
would not be responsible for holding the district ; 
and a folio volume, labelled ' Military Correspond- 
ence,' barely contains his communications with the 
senior captain during three years. Mr. Keating,^'^'" 
the first Collector whose records survive, had not 
enjoyed his appointment two months before he 
found himself compelled to call out the troops 
against a band of marauders five hundred strong, 
who ' had made a descent on' a market town within 
two hours' ride from the English capital, and mur- 
dered or frightened away the inhabitants ' of be- 
tween thirty and forty villages.' ^^^ A few weeks 
later (February 1789), the hill-men broke through 
the cordon of outposts en masse, and spread ' their 
depredations throughout the interior villages of the 
district.' ^^* Panic and bloodshed reigned ; the out- 
posts were hastily recalled from the frontier passes ; 
and on the 21st of February 1789, we find Mr. 
Keating levying a militia to act with the regulars 
against the banditti who were sacking the country 
towns ' in parties of three and four hundred men, 
well found in arms.' The evil was not to be so 
easily dealt with, however, and the Governor- 

^^2 Christopher Keating landed in Calcutta July 1767, as a writer; 
appointed Collector of Beerbhoom 29th October 178S ; appointed 
Senior Judge of the Court of Moorshedabad from ist May 1793, but 
did not leave Beerbhoom till the 6th August ; appears as a Senior 
Merchant in the Civil List of 1804. C. O. R. 

1^^ Letter from the Collector to Lieut. J. F. Smith, dated loth 
January 1789. B. R. R. 

^^* Military Correspondence, p. 15. B. R. R. 


General in Council had eventually to direct the 
Collectors of the several adjoining districts to unite 
their whole forces ; all questions of jurisdiction were 
sunk ; ^^^ a battle was fought, and the banditti were 
chased far into the mountains. But a piece of petty 
official jealousy prevented the success from being 
complete. The confederates had omitted to take 
the Collector of a neighbouring district into their 
councils, and the bandits found shelter within his 
jurisdiction. ' By a wounded Sepoy, who is arrived 
from our parties,' wrote the indignant Mr. Keating, 
' I understand they have had a smart skirmish with 
the thieves near the borders of Pacheate ; but in 
their pursuit were stopped by the Collector's guards, 
who, instead of assisting the business, prevented 
their advancing into that district, and sheltered 
some of the banditti's followers. The Sepoy tells 
me that, in consequence of [this interference by] the 
Pacheate people, ours have thought it expedient to 
seize four or five of them who are coming in to 
answer for their conduct' ^^'^ The wrath of the 
Pacheate Collector at the capture of his guards by 
a military force in time of peace, and the mutual 
reproaches which followed, may easily be con- 

The disorders in Bishenpore would, in any less 
troubled time, have been called rebellion. The 
Rajah had been imprisoned for arrears of the land- 

1^^ From Christopher Keating to Laurence Mercer, Collector of 
Burdwan, dated i6th February 1789. B. R. R. 

^^^ From the same to the same, dated 9th April 1789. 


tax ; the head assistant to the Collector, Mr. Hesil- 
rige/" was in charge of his estates, and the inhabit- 
ants made common cause with the banditti to oppose 
the Government. In June 1789, a detachment was 
hurried out to support the civil power ; eight days 
afterwards a reinforcement followed, too late how- 
ever to save the chief manufacturing town in the 
district from being sacked in open day - light. ^^^ 
Next month, Mr. Keating reported to Govern- 
ment that the marauders, having crossed the Adji 
in ' a large party armed with tulwars (swords) and 
matchlocks,' had established themselves in Beer- 
bhoom, and that their reduction would simply be 
a question of military force. 

The rainy season, however, came to the aid of 
the authorities. The plunderers, laden with spoil, 
and leaving a sufficient force to hold Bishenpore 
as a basis for their operations in the next cold 
weather, retreated to their strongholds ; and Mr. 
Keating took advantage of the lull to devise a 
more elaborate system for warding the frontier. 
He represented ^^^ to Lord Cornwallis, then Gover- 
nor-General, that the existing military force was 
insufficient to hold the district ; that the contingents 
furnished by the hereditary wardens of the marches 

1" Afterwards Sir Arthur Hesilrige, Bart. Landed as a writer in 
1773 ; assistant and occasionally acting Collector of Beerbhoom or 
Bishenpore, from 25th April 1786 to 9th July, when he was removed 
on a charge of embezzlement ; clears himself and is appointed Col- 
lector of Jessore from the ist May 1793. Appears as Senior Merchant 
in the Civil List of 1804. 

^^^ Elambazaar on the Adji. 

"9 Letter dated i6th October 1789. B. R. R. 


were undisciplined, faint-hearted, more disposed to 
act with the plunderers than against them ; and that 
to secure peace to the lowlands, it was absolutely 
necessary to station a guard of picked soldiers from 
the regular army at each of the passes. A nucleus 
would thus be formed round which the irregular 
troops might gather. By return of post, with a 
promptitude that lets us into the secret of Lord 
Cornwallis' success as an Indian administrator, came 
back an answer ' that the Commander-in-Chief has 
been requested to detach ' a sufficient force which 
the Collector ' will station at the different ghauts 
(passes), through which the Dacoits generally make 
their inroads into the low country.' In November, 
the six most important passes were occupied, a 
detachment was stationed in Bishenpore, another 
occupied the chief manufacturing town on the Adji 
(the one that had been sacked the previous sum- 
mer), to prevent the banditti from crossing the river. 
The Adji divides the united district into two parts, 
Bishenpore on the south, Beerbhoom on the north ; 
and these measures, while they restored compara- 
tive quiet to the former, left the latter defenceless. 
'Scarce a night passes,' wrote Mr. Keating, 'with- 
out some daring robbery.' The military, harassed 
by night marches, and scattered about in small 
bands, were unable to cope with the banditti, or 
even to protect the principal towns. On the 25th 
of November 1789, the commanding officer re- 
ported that only four men remained to guard the 
Government offices in the capital ; and a few weeks- 


later he declared himself unable to furnish an escort 
sufficient to ensure the safety of a treasure party 
through the district. At length, on the 5th of 
June, Raj-Nagar, the ancient capital and the seat 
of the hereditary princes, fell into the hands of the 
banditti/'^'' More than five centuries had elapsed 
since a similar calamity had befallen Beerbhoom. 
In 1244 A.D., the wild tribes from the south-west 
had sacked the city, and history, repeating itself in 
the fortunes of the obscurest district not less faith- 
fully than in the revolutions of empires, discloses 
the same outragres at the close as at the commence- 
ment of Mussulman rule. 

Mr. Keatlng's position was a difficult one. He 
had to guard BIshenpore on the south of the Adji, 
Beerbhoom on the north, and above all, the passes 
along the western frontier. Beerbhoom, as the 
headquarters of the English power, was of the first 
importance ; but if he called in the troops from 
BIshenpore, the calamities of the preceding year 
would be repeated ; and if he withdrew the out- 
posts from the western passes, the entire district, 
north and south, would be at the mercy of the 
hill-men. He decided that It was better to let the 
marauders riot for a time on the south of the Adji, 
than to open up his entire frontier. An express 
summoned the detachments from BIshenpore by 
forced marches to the rescue of Beerbhoom ; but no 

^'^^ Gya, the capital of the adjoining province of Bahar, had been 
sacked by marauders a year before. — Letter from A. Seton, Esq., 
Acting-Collector of Bahar, to the Collector of Beerbhoom, dated 23d 
April 1789. 

VOL. I. F 


sooner had they crossed the river than tidings came 
that Bishenpore was itself in the hands of ' insur- 
gents assembled in number nearly one thousand.' 
The rebellion spread into adjoining jurisdictions, and 
the Collectors on the south bitterly reproached Mr. 
Keating with having sacrificed the peace of many 
districts for the sake of maintaining intact the 
outposts along the frontier of his own. The more 
strictly these passes were guarded, the greater the 
number of marauders who flocked by a circuitous 
route into the unprotected country on the south of 
the Adji. Their outrages passed all bounds ; the 
approaching rains, by suspending military opera- 
tions, threatened to leave them in possession of 
Bishenpore for several months ; till at last the 
peasantry, wishing for death rather than life, rose 
against the oppressors whom they had a year ago 
welcomed as allies, and the evil began to work its 
own cure. The marauders of Bishenpore under- 
went the fate of the Abyssinian slave-troops in 
Bengal three hundred years before, being shut out 
of the walled cities, decoyed into the woods by twos 
and threes, set upon by bands of infuriated peasants, 
and ignobly beaten to death by clubs. In mid- 
summer 1790 Mr. Keating ordered the senior 
captain ' to station a military guard with an officer 
at Bishenpore, whose sole business I propose to be 
that of receiving all thieves and Dacoits that shall 
be sent In.' 

Thus ended the first two years of which we 
possess a complete record of British rule in Beer- 

BEERBHO OM ZV 1 7 9 2 . 83 

bhoom. From their calamities we can imagine 
what had gone before. The amount of property 
destroyed by the plunderers may be estimated from 
an entry in a state document drawn up a few years 
previously. ' Deduct/ saith the deed for the 
Benares district for the year 1782, 'deduct the 
devastations, etc., of two months' disturbances, Sicca 
rupees 666,666 : 10 : 10,' ^"^^ or over ^70,000 ster- 
ling. If this were the result of two months, what 
must have been the destruction during two years } 
Some time afterwards, when quiet had been imperi- 
ously enforced, Mr. Keating calmly and rather 
despondently reviewed the result of his labours. 
* Beerbhoom,' he Avrote, ' is surrounded on the 
south-west and west by the great western jungle, 
which has long protected from the vigilance of 
justice numerous gangs of Dacoits, who there take 
up their refuge and commit their depredations on 
the neighbouring defenceless ryots. Towns once 
populous are now deserted ; the manufactures are 
decayed ; and where commerce flourished, only a 
few poor and wretched hovels are seen. These 
pernicious effects are visible along the whole course 
of the Adji, particularly In the decay of Elambazaar 
(the town sacked in 1789), and the almost complete 
desertion of the once large trading town of Sacara- 
coonda. When these places on the frontier became 
from their poverty no longer an object to the 
Dacoits, their depredations were extended Into the 

^•'^ Treaties and Engagements with the Native Princes, etc., of 
Asia, p. 93. Quarto (181 2). 


heart of the district, and towns have been pknidered 
and people murdered within two coss (four miles) 
of the Collector's house, by banditti amounting to 
upwards of three hundred men.' ^*^^ 

This unvarnished picture of devastation is best 
left without any finishing stroke. From that period 
to the Santal war, thirteen years ago, armed oppo- 
sition to the Government has been unknown in 
Beerbhoom. Even durinof those first troubled 
years of British rule, the peasantry obtained a 
degree of protection that they had not enjoyed for 
many years previously. Tillage extended ; and 
between the time that Mr. Foley was sent to 
' superintend ' Beerbhoom and that at which Mr, 
Keating finally elaborated his system of frontier 
passes, three hundred and twenty-eight rural com- 
munes had been repeopled and brought once more 
under cultivation.^*^^ This represents an increase of 
more than seven per cent, to the total number of 
communes in the district. During the two calami- 
tous years with which we are most familiar, the 
improvement was rapid. In November 1788 Mr. 
Keating found the banditti free to roam over 
the district. He established outposts to check 
the constant invasions of marauders from the hill 
country ; but his frontier passes were forced, and 
to all appearance the district was no safer in 1 789 
than when he took overcharore. The disasters of 


1*^2 From the Collector to the Board of Revenue, dated ist June 
1792. B. R. R. 

^•^3 Statistics in a Report from the Collector to the Board of 
Revenue, dated 3d July 1789. 


his first winter, however, had taught him what was 
needed. The outposts, strengthened by reinforce- 
ments, were maintained intact ; and the banditti, 
unable to find an entrance, made a detour to the 
south, and massed tliemselves on the south of the 
Adji. Before the rains of 1790 set in, the inha- 
bitants had joined heartily with the Government 
against the common enemy ; and the robber-hordes 
of Beerbhoom, like the men of Gaza, seemed to 
have been assembled in one spot only to render 
their destruction more complete. 

As soon as order was established, the amending 
hand rapidly made itself felt. Organized robberies 
and armed feuds between the landholders have from 
time to time disturbed the repose of the district, but 
on a scale so trifling as barely to keep alive the 
remembrance of the old troubles, as the names of 
Singh -bhum (Lion-land), Sher-ghar (Tiger-town), 
Sher-ghati (Tiger-ford), Shikar-pur (Hunting-ham- 
let), stand as scarcely recognised memorials of the 
days when the margin of cultivation receded before 
wild beasts. In 1802 Sir Henry Strachey mentions 
Beerbhoom as a part of the country remarkably free 
from gang-robbery ; it is now, perhaps, the very 
quietest district in Bengal ; and a recent public 
document, in perfect unconsciousness of the past, 
describes it as still enjoying ' its old immunity from 

Nor has the change been less marked with 
regard to wild animals. It is now impossible to 
find an undomestlcated elephant, and very rarely 


possible to hear of a tiger throughout the length 
and breadth of the district. The last tiger-hunt 
took place in May 1864. A band of hill-men, in 
number about five hundred, beat many square miles 
of jungle, but not a bear or a leopard, much less a 
tiger or an elephant, could they turn out. The 
largest thing we saw was a small spotted deer. 
Bears and leopards still survive in the recesses of 
the woods, but they never trouble the inhabitants, 
and their capture is as much an event as the shoot- 
ing of an eagle in the Scottish Highlands. 

For the disorders which the English found in 
Bengal the native aristocracy cannot be held re- 
sponsible. At that period Mussulman oppression 
and public calamities had reduced them to a state 
in which they could no longer discharge their func- 
tions as the natural leaders of the people. But the 
immemorial miseries of the Bengali spring from a 
much deeper source. A strong spirit of nationality 
would have rendered such protracted oppression 
impossible ; the want of this spirit in an Asiatic 
country during the spread of Islam rendered 
conquest and national abasement inevitable. At 
a time when English statesmen in Bengal are 
labouring to develop a self-supporting national life 
among the heterogeneous millions over whom they 
have been called to rule, it is well accurately to 
understand the reasons why a people so industrious, 
so patient, and yet so shrewdly quick-witted, have 
never been a nation. As the same reasons lie at 
the root of much that is otherwise inexplicable in 


the home hfe and agrarian system of the Bengali, 
such an inquiry, although it will lead away from my 
immediate subject-matter, may with great propriety 
be conducted in a preliminary volume of Rural 
Annals. The two following chapters, therefore, 
will treat at some leno-th of the elemental and 
structural defects that have hitherto incapacitated 
the hybrid multitudes of Bengal from becoming a 




T N the year 1790 the United District, after a full 
half-century of invasion and rapine, obtained 
rest, and its new rulers had leisure to survey the 
population that had passed under their care. In 
Bishenpore the Rajah, his aristocracy, and the whole 
people were Hindus. On the other bank of the 
Adji the Beerbhoom house, with* several Mussul- 
man families who had grown rich in its service, 
asserted Afghan or Pathan descent, and disdained to 
mincrle their northern blood with the misbelieving 
natives. Separated from their subjects by religion, 
a foreign speech, and the pride of birth, they formed 
a class socially important, but numerically small. 
The mass of the people consisted of two races 
which in intellect, language, and in everything that 
makes a nation great or ignoble, have been selected 
to represent the highest and the lowest types of 
mankind. The aboriginal tribes of Bengal, pushed 
back from the rich valley by the Aryans, made a 
final stand for existence among the highlands of 
Beerbhoom ; and the same mountains which were 


fixed In pre-historic times as landmarks between 
the races, accurately demarcate their territories at 
this day. The composite people evolved from two 
stocks, belonging to very unequal degrees of civili- 
sation, when brought closely and permanently into 
contact, presents one of the most interesting ques- 
tions with which history has to deal. How the 
Aryan and the Aboriginal solved this problem, the 
terms on which they have to a certain extent united, 
and the ethnical compromises to which they have 
had to submit, form the subject of this chapter. 

The inquiry leads us back to that far-off time 
which we love to associate with patriarchal stillness.^ 
Yet the echoes of ancient life in India little re- 
semble a Sicilian Idyl or the strains of Pan's pipe, 
but strike the ear rather as the cries of oppressed 
and wandering nations, of people in constant mo- 
tion and pain. Early Indian researches, however, 
while they make havoc of the pastoral landscapes 
of Genesis and Job, have a consolation peculiarly 
suited to this age. They plainly tell us, that as 
In Europe, so in Asia, the primitive state of man- 
kind was a state of unrest ; and that civilisation, 
despite its exactions and nervous city life, is a state 
of repose. 

Our earliest glimpses of the human family in 

^ ' The India of the Vedic books presents to M. Michelet's view a 
domestic picture of purity, dignity, and sweetness,' says the Saturday 
Reviewer of M. Michelet's 'Bible de rHumanit^' (Paris : Chamerot, 
1864). Little as is known of Sanskrit history, enough has been ascer- 
tained to dispel M. Michelet's pretty illusion of the millions of medi- 
tative Aryans chaunting the Ramayana during three or four thousand 


India disclose two tribes of widely different origin, 
struggling for the mastery. In the primitive time, 
which lies on the horizon even of inductive history, 
a tall, fair-complexioned race passed the Hima- 
laya. They came of a conquering stock. They 
had known the safety and the plenty which can 
only be enjoyed in regular communities. They 
brought with them a store of legends and devotional 
strains ; and chief of all, they were at the time of 
their migration southward through Bengal, if not at 
their first arrival in India, imbued with that high 
sense of nationality which burns in the hearts of 
a people who believe themselves the depositary 
of a divine revelation.^ There is no record of 
the new-comers' first struggle for life with the 
people of the land. We know not the date of 
their setting out, nor the names of their leaders. 
We have no tales to tell like those which have 
interested seventy generations in the weather-beaten 
band who drew up their galleys on the sands of 
Cumas. The philologer can only assert that a 
branch of a noble stock won for themselves a home 

^ European scholars have assigned the Vedic claims to inspiration 
to the commentators rather than to the composers of the hymns. 
The commentators unquestionably developed these claims, but 
Hindu faith has ever asserted the inspiration of the sacred texts. 
Such passages as the following in the Vedas themselves leave the 
devout but unsceptical pundit little room for doubt. ' The holy sages 
of old who talked about divine truths with the gods.' — Rig Veda, i. 
179. ' The wise, the well-knowing one, who hath taught us, he hath 
declared the secrets of the heavens.' — Rig Veda, vii. 87. ' The gods 
gave birth first to the hymn, then to the fire, then to the offering.' — 
Rig Veda, viii. 88. The question is comprehensively discussed in 
Muir's Sanskrit Texts, Part iii., London, Octavo, 1861. 


amonof numerous but inferior tribes, and that before 
the dawn of history the children of the soil had 
been reduced to villeinage, or driven back into the 

The emigrants belonged to that prolific race 
which, under the title of Aryan, literally Noble, 
radiated from Central Asia to the extremities of the 
ancient world. One branch established a powerful 
state and a highly spiritual creed on the borders 
of China ; another founded the Persian dynasty ; a 
third built Athens and Lacedsemon ; a fourth, the 
City of the Seven Hills. A distant colony of the 
same race excavated silver ore in pre-historic Spain ; 
and the earliest glimpses we get at our own Eng- 
land disclose an Aryan settlement, fishing in its 
willow canoes and workino- in the mines of Corn- 
wall. The Aryan speech has formed the basis of 
the languages of half of Asia, and of nearly the 
whole of Europe ; it is now conquering for itself 
the forests of the New World, and carrying Indo- 
Germanic culture to island empires in the Southern 
Ocean. The history of the ancient world, as under- 
stood by classical scholars, is the history of a few 
Aryan settlements on the shores of the Mediter- 
ranean ; and that wide term, modern civilisation, 
merely means the civilisation of the western families 
of the same race. 

The Vedic literature exhibits the Indian branch 
of the Aryans settled in their new homes. By 
whatever route they travelled, there is little doubt 
that their first settlements lay in the well-watered 


valleys of North-western Hindusthan. The seven 
rivers of the Punjab, indeed, would seem to form 
a common remembrance of both the Indian and 
Persian branches of the race ; and this circumstance 
gives additional probability to the views of those 
scholars who maintain that the schism between the 
Vedic and the Avestic faiths took place on the 
Indian side of the Himalaya.^ In its subsequent 
wanderlnofs throuo^h India, the Sanskrit race has 
never forgotten its primitive northern home. The 
land of pure speech ;* the source of divine know- 
ledge ; the fountalnhead of holy waters ; the scene 
of the birth, the trials, and the glorious espousals 
of Uma;'^ the realm of the mystic king Himalaya;^ 
the region in which Arjuna strove single-handed 
with the Great God,^ and, although defeated like 
Jacob of old, won a blessing and the irresistible 
weapon from the Deity; — these and numberless other 

^ The Hapta Hcndu of the Vendidad are plainly the same as the 
Sapta Sindhavas of the Vedic Hymns. This is only one of many 
coincidences indicating a common origin of the now widely severed 
faiths. Haug points out that the thoroughly Sanskrit Mantra appears 
in the Zendavesta as Manthra, and that Zoroaster was the Manthran, 
or giver of the Avestic Manthras. (Aitareya Brahmanam, 2 vols., 
Triibner, 1863.) Spiegel has shown, in his Introductory Discourse to 
the Avesta, that Yima is the same as the Sanskrit Yama. Cf. Muir's 
Sanskrit Texts, vol. ii. pp. 293, 294, and his admirable pamphlet 
' Yama,' 8vo, London 1865. 

^ Sanskrit Texts, ii. 338. 8vo, i860. 

^ The beautiful legend of Uma formed the introduction to the 
Kumara Sambhava, and is now all that remains of it. 

'^ Kumara Sambhava, by Kalidasa. Canto i. 

"^ Mahadeva. ' Uttara Kuru, the Elysium in the remotest north, 
may be most properly regarded as an ideal picture created by the 
imagination of a hfe of tranquil felicity.' — Lassen, Ind. Antiq. i. p, 


epithets and legends all point to the time when the 
Sanskrit race, still on its pilgrimage, halted for a 
while in its beloved north. There was its Olympus ; 
there eloquence descended from heaven among 
men ; and there the abodes of the blessed cluster 
beneath the shadow of the golden mountain, or 
cast their reflections on the twin sacred lakes.'- 
One valley in particular left an ineffaceable im- 
pression. It has become the Holy Land of the 
I ndo- Aryans, and the river^ that watered it was 
lone remembered with the affection and devout 
regard which the Jordan excites among the dis- 
persed of the Jews. 

From this happy valley the settlers threw off 
colonies east and south, and before the compilation 
of their customs into a national code had conquered 
all Beneal. Manu has some curious verses on the 
Sanskrit geography of his time, which, as recently 
illustrated by the scholarship of Dr. Muir, throw a 
new and conclusive light on the spread of Aryan 
civilisation in India. Manu's civilised world is in 
the shape of a comet, with its eye in the north-west 
of India, and a broad tail spreading south-east to 
the Bay of Bengal. He divides it into four regions, 
each less pure as it is more distant from the starting- 
point in the north, and each representing Aryan 
migrations at widely-separated epochs. 

First there was the northern valley, the Holy 
Land itself, described by Manu as ' lying between 

8 Manosaravara and Ravana-prada. 
** The Saraswati. 


the two sacred rivers,^^ fashioned of God and called 
by the name of the Creator.' ^^ South-east of the 
Holy Land, and adjoining to it, lay the Land of the 
Sacred Singers.^- This marks the first a4vance of 
the Sanskrit Pomcerium. The later portion, at 
least, of the Vedic hymns was composed within it, 
and the places of pilgrimage at every confluence of 
its streams bear witness to a sanctity hardly less 
venerable than that of the Holy Land itself ' From 
a Brahman born in this land, let every man on the 
earth learn each his own duties.'^" 

But not even this extension would suffice for 
the growing numbers of the people, and the next 
stride was a wide one. It embraced what Manu 
accurately calls the Middle Land,^^ including the 
whole river system of Upper India, from the Hima- 
layas on the north to the Vindhya ranges on the 
south, and from Allahabad on the east to where the 
sacred river was fabled to hide itself from the im- 
pure races beneath the sands of the western desert. 
The colonization of this vast tract seems not to 
have commenced till the close of the Vedic era, and 
it must have been the slow work of ages. In it 
the simple faith of the singers was first adorned 
with stately rites, and then extinguished beneath 
them. It beheld the race progress from a loose 

1" The Saraswati and the Drishadvati. 

^^ Devanirmittam desham Brahmavarttam. Manava Dharma 
Sastra, hb. ii. sloka 17, Cox and Bayhs, 4to, 1825. Muir's Sanskrit 
Texts, ii..4i8. 

^2 Brahmarshidesha. 

^3 Manava Dharma Sastra, ii. 20. 

1^ Madhya-desha. Id. ii. 21. 


confederacy of patriarchal communities into several 
well-knit nations, each secured by a strong central 
force, but disfigured by distinctions of caste, destined 
In the end to be the ruin of the Sanskrit people. 
The compilers of the land-law recorded In the Book 
of Manu, If not actual residents of the Middle Land, 
were so closely Identified with It, as to look upon 
it as the focus of their race ; and It Is certain that 
the treatise which goes by Manu's name could not 
have been written till after the Indian Aryans had 
settled down Into the sort of civilisation which the 
Middle Land developed. 

These three reaflons must lonof have furnished 
sufficient territory for the race; and no one who 
knows what a terrible thing an Indian river Is, with 
its midnight hurricanes. Its uncontrollable currents, 
Its whlrlj^ools and sheets of treacherous calm, will 
wonder that the Aryans hesitated to embark for 
the lower valley of the Ganges. But river courses 
have ever formed the high roads of nations, and 
sooner or later the Ganges gave a direction to the 
Sanskrit line of march through Bengal. Like the 
hordes of Northern Europe under similar circum- 
stances, ' they followed the unknown course of the 
river, confident in their valour and careless of what- 
ever power might oppose them ;'^'' and before the 
compilation of their National Customs, a work pro- 
bably performed by several hands, but popularly 
ascribed to Manu, they had spread themselves over 
the whole of Bengal, 'from the Eastern even to 

!■' Gibbon. 


the Western Ocean.' ^'^ This tract Manu calls the 
Aryan Pale. It comprised the entire Sanskrit 
world of his time. Beyond it all was terra incognita, 
peopled, according to Sanskrit writers, by giants 
and raw-eaters, — regions where the black antelope 
refused to graze, and in which the sacrificing Aryan 
was forbidden to dwell. 

We are too much accustomed to speak of India 
as a single country, and of its inhabitants as a single 
nation ; but the truth is, that as regards its history, 
its extent, and its population, India displays the 
diversities rather of a continent than of a single 
State. Our mistake arises from the customs or 
beliefs of particular parts being falsely predicated 
of the whole, and from isolated facts being magni- 
fied into general conclusions. The popular English 
mind, accustomed to regard the Indian Empire as 
a political unit among British dependencies, has 
come to look upon the component parts of that 
unit as historically and socially one. Wide dif- 
ferences of race and creed are known to exist, but 
the recognition is dim and speculative, rather than 
practically and substantially realized. Setting aside 
the Mussulmans and their faith, it is generally 
supposed that the inhabitants of India are, and 
for ages have been, Hindus ; that the religion of 
India since the beginning of history has been the 
Hindu religion; and that from time immemorial 
Indian society has been artificially divided into four 
classes, known as the Hindu Castes. Such opinions 

^^ Manu, ii. 22. 


have led to a complete misunderstanding of the 
Indian people, — a misunderstanding which warps 
our whole political dealings with India, and which 
stands as a barrier between our eastern subjects 
and that new order of things, with its more active 
humanity and purer creed, of which England is the 
messenger and representative to the Asiatic world. 

The civilisation which is popularly supposed to 
have been the civilisation of ancient India, and 
which is represented by the Brahmanas and the 
Book of Manu, was in its integrity confined to the 
northern country, termed by Manu the Middle 
Land, and now known as the North-west Provinces 
and Punjab. The active duties of life pressed 
lightly upon the conquerors in the thoroughly 
vanquished north. An age of reflection followed 
an age of exertion, and the Aryans subsided into 
the mild-eyed philosophers whom Megasthenes 
found conversing amid their mango groves chiefly 
on life and death. The sacred texts were anno- 
tated, and their simple prayers elaborated into a 
complicated and costly superstition. A meditative 
generation went to work on the sayings of their 
practical fathers, determined to elicit hidden mean- 
ings from everything. The objective was fined 
down to the subjective ; an observation on the 
weather furnished a saving doctrine of religion ; 
and from a thanksgiving for victory a whole theo- 
logical system was evolved. Schools wrangled, 
sects split words, ceremony ^was piled upon cere- 
mony, till at length the highest object of Aryan 

VOL. I. 


existence became the propagation of grammatical 
enigmas, or the successful performance of a sacrifice 
which should occupy three generations, and extend 
over more than one hundred years. ^'' Of such 
refinements the Aryan emigrants in Lower Bengal 
knew nothing. At the time of their setting out, 
their countrymen were workers rather than thinkers : 
philosophy did not easily travel through the jungles 
of the southern valley ; and the settlers had to con- 
sider not so much why they existed, as by what 
means they were to continue to exist. Their 
opponents were not rival pandits armed with new 
interpretations, but the black squat races with sharp 
spears and poisoned arrows in their hands. It was 
not till historic times that the Hindus of Bengal 
Proper accepted Hinduism in the full sense of the 
word. Buddhism, which found arrayed against 
it in the north a stately phalanx of religious beliefs, 
a host of time-honoured rites and vested interests, 
obtained in Lower Bengal a fair hearing, such as a 
new creed might receive from a people who had 
not developed a high form of religion for them- 
selves. Moreover, Buddhism won its easiest and 
most permanent conquests in the countries out- 
side the Middle Land ; and to this day its monu- 
ments, now turned into Hindu temples, form the 
most conspicuous pieces of architecture in the dis- 
tricts adjoining Beerbhoom. The settlers in the 

^'' Haug speaks of sacrificial sessions lasting even one thousand 
years, and refers to the Mahabharata iii. 105 13 for an example. — 
Aitareya Brahmanam, vol. i. p. 6 and footnote. 



Lower Valley must either have quickly forgotten 
the distinctive doctrines of Aryan faith as professed 
in the Middle Land, or they must have started 
southwards before those doctrines were evolved. 
They make their first appearance In history as 
Buddhists, not as Hindus : their kines were aborl- 
ginal, not Aryan ; and the Celts had listened to 
Christian anthems In lona centuries before the 
mixed Bengali people accepted their present religion. 
After their conversion they repeatedly and con- 
sciously supplemented their meagre Hinduism with 
importations from the Middle Land ; and one of 
their first traditions, In which we touch firm historic 
ground, represents the King of Gour bringing 
priests from the north to Initiate his Brahmans in 
sacrifices common for ages In Upper India, but 
which the priests of Bengal Proper knew not how 
to perform. No one can study minutely the local 
monuments and traditions of the Lower Valley, 
without comlno- to the conviction that the Hindu 
creed, as laid down in Manu and the Brahmanas, 
is a comparatively modern Importation from the 
north, and that Buddhism was the first form of 
an elaborated religious belief which the Bengali 
people received. ^^ 

^^ I limit the above remarks to Bengal Proper, the province to 
the south-east of Magadha (Bahar), in which latter, from its proxi- 
mity to the Middle Land, Brahmanical influences were stronger. 
Until the fourth century A.D. the celebrated tooth of Buddha 
was kept at Jagannath, then the Jerusalem of the Buddhists, as it is 
now of the Hindus. Prinsep, Lassen, and Burnouf have proved, 
partly from manuscripts, principally from inscriptions, that Bud- 
dhism was prevalent in many parts of India from 300 B.C. to 400 A.D. 


But the habit of predicating of the whole of 
India what are in reahty local customs or beliefs, 
has exercised a less injurious effect upon the popu- 
lar ideas concerning Indian faith, than upon the 
views which statesmen have adopted with regard 
to the social institutions and practical life of the 
Indian people. We have been, so long accus- 
tomed to hear Indian society termed rigid and 
artificial, that it will require a somewhat lengthy 
disquisition to prove that caste, as described by 
Manu and popularly predicated of the whole Hin- 
dus, is in truth only predicable of the Middle 
Land. It will be found, however, that Indian caste 
in general, and particularly in Lower Bengal, is 
neither rigid nor artificial, but is built upon the 
universal and natural basis of an ancient society — 
the conquerors and the conquered. Manu's four- 
fold classification of Brahmans, Kshatryas, Vaisyas, 
and Sudras, has a stiffness and an inertia about it 
very discouraging to Indian social reformers, and 
affords an excuse for inaction that mi^ht otherwise 

The Chinese travellers Fa Hian and Hiuan Thsang are evidence of 
its existence down to the seventh centur}^ The kings of Bengal, 
with Gour as their capital — a dynasty that reigned from 785 to 1040 
A.D. — were Buddhists at least until 900 A.D. ; and the creed lurked 
in various out of the way places, such as the highlands of Beer- 
bhoom and Orissa, until the time of the English Plantagenets. The 
chief temple within the present district of Beerbhoom is of Buddhist 
origin. — Rajmahal, p. 19, etc. Notes and Queries suggested by a 
visit to Orissa, 8vo pamphlet, p. 2. History, etc., of Eastern India, 
from, the Buchanan Papers, vols. i. and ii. Survey Report of Beer- 
bhoom, p. 14, by Captain Sherwill, 4to, Calcutta 1855. Saint- 
Hilaire's ' Le Bouddha et sa Religion,' 8vo, Paris 1862. Sir E. 
Tennent's Ceylon, parts iii. and iv. 

CASTE. loi 

be stigmatized as sloth. The following pages will 
show this alleged inertia and fourfold classification 
to be disproved by the history of the people, and 
will exhibit the population of Bengal as naturally 
composed of two distinct ethnical elements. 

In the Middle Land, peace and civil security 
developed social distinctions which the southern emi- 
grants, engaged in constant warfare with the abori- 
gines, had neither leisure to think of nor wealth to 
support. It is impossible to give the date at which 
the rise of caste took place, but it is easy to say at 
what epoch it did not exist, when it was beginning to 
make its influence felt, and when it had grown into 
a full-blown dominant institution in the land. The 
Rig Veda knows little or nothing of caste, although 
it contains verses which were afterwards twisted into 
an authoritative sanction for it." As the religious 
system of the Hindus developed, so also did their 
social distinctions ; and the Yajur Veda places be- 
yond doubt, that in the district in which it was 
WTitten, Brahmanism had already introduced com- 
plicated religious forms, and that society had 
acquiesced to a certain extent in the cruel differ- 
ences between man and man that Brahmanism 
implies. Before the compilation of national cus- 
toms known as the Book of Manu, caste had 
attained its final development. The Book of 
Manu, however, accurately represented the state 

^9 The Purusha Sukta (R. V. x. 90). The allegorical nature of 
this hymn is set forth in the Sanskrit Texts, part i. Dr. Muir, how- 
ever, has kindly shown me the proof sheets of his 2d edition, proving 
that the R. V. was not so unconscious of caste as some have alleged. 


of Indian society in only a single province — the 
Middle Land. On the west, caste never crossed 
the Indus, and it is doubtful whether it reached by. 
some hundreds of miles the bank of that river. The 
Rajputs did not accept a fourfold classification until 
within historic times. Beyond the Indus stretched 
the Bahika land, peopled with Sanskrit-speaking 
tribes, who held that God had made all men equal, 
and that He was to be worshipped by no priestly 
formulas. Beyond them, again, the whole Aryans 
of Cashmir are said to be of one caste i^*' and 
indeed everywhere west of the Middle Land, a for- 
mal fourfold classification of the people such as 
Manu records is unknown. These Sanskrit-speak- 
ing nations on the west, who, rejecting the civilisa- 
tion of the Middle Land, stood out for the simple 
faith and customs of their ancestors, are everywhere 
spoken of in the Brahmanical section of Sanskrit 
literature with scorn and hatred. The accepting or 
rejecting of caste implied the accepting or rejecting 
of the whole Brahmanical ritual, and so in process of 
time it became the great issue between the Aryans 
of the Middle Land and those of the west. The 
Brahmanized Hindus tried to force their system on 
their fellow-countrymen ; sometimes peaceably or 
by the bribe of admission into the highest caste,^^ 

-'* I limit this statement expressly to the Aryan population of 
Cashmir : the remains of an aboriginal race, with the mixed castes 
that sprung from it, exist there as elsewhere throughout in India. 

-^ More than one Sanskrit legend relates how princes belonging 
to the inferior classes were adopted into the Brahman caste. The 
Brahmans tell the stories to suit their own purposes ; but I believe 
that these legends record, under a thin disguise, the spread of the 


but more often by a fierce religious warfare, which 
has left its intolerant stamp upon all Sanskrit litera- 
ture subsequent to the Vedic hymns, and one of 
whose episodes forms the first national struggle 
recorded in Sanskrit history.^' Caste soon became 
the differentia of the Brahmanized Aryans ; and 
Manu, hitting the truth nearer than he guessed,- 
held that the Greeks and Persians were sprung 
from errant Kshatryas who had lost their caste.^^ 

Manu gives the Himalayas as the northern, 
and the Vindhya range as the southern boundary 
of the Middle Land. Beyond those mountains it 
is certain that caste, as represented by the rigid 
fourfold classification in Manu, never penetrated. 
Entire communities of Aryans in southern India 
claim to be of the Brahman caste, and when a 
Kshatryan family or colony is found among such 
a population, its foreign origin or comparatively 
recent migration southwards can generally be ascer- 
tained. Mixed castes abound to the south of the 
Vindhyas, as to the north, east, and west of them ; 
but these mixed castes arose not from intermarriage 
between the first three castes mentioned in Manu, 
but by cohabitation of the Aryan settlers with the 

Brahmanical civilisation before the caste system of the Middle Land 
was firmly fixed. 

22 The conflict of Parasu-Rama with the Kshatryas, and his final 
triumph over them. Midler compares this war of the castes to the 
long struggle in Greece which ended in the erection of republics upon 
the ruins of despotism. 

23 The Yavanas and Pahlavas. The Vishnu Purana takes the 
same view. 


As Manu's artificial classification of the people 
never passed in its integrity beyond the Middle 
Land to the north, west, or south, so on the east, 
where Lower Bengal begins, there caste as a fourfold 
classification ceases. In North Bahar, which borders 
on the ancient Middle Land, it is just apparent.'^* In 
South Bahar, which adjoins Lower Bengal, it is un- 
known ; and the population are divided, not into the 
four castes of Manu, but into Aryans, non-Aryans, 
and mixed classes. 

One important difference, however, is observable 
in the caste to which the Aryans on the east and 
those on the west of the Middle Land claim to 
belong. At the period when the race passed the 
Indus it was a confederacy of fighting tribes, and 
among the colonies it left on the west of that river 
war long continued to be the chief business of life. 
When, therefore, the Brahmans of the Middle Land 
formed their fourfold classification, the Western 
Rajputs and the other tribes of the ancient Bahika 
land were naturally set down as clans of the mili- 
tary caste. In the Holy Land, where the race 
pitched its tents after leaving the Indus, and still 
more in the Land of the Sacred Singers, peace 
developed literature, and mental attainments rather 
than physical or warlike qualifications became the 

^* Kshatryas exist in Bahar, but they always give a distinct 
account of themselves as migrating in small bodies from the north, in 
comparatively recent times. For an example, see ' The History, 
Antiquities, etc., of Eastern India,' from the Buchanan MSS., vol. ii. 
p. 121. The Kshatryas of Bahar claim to be of greater antiquity 
than any of the isolated families in Lower Bengal. 


fountain of honour.-^ The * religious conceptions 
and sacred usages which,' to quote a noble sen- 
tence of Roth's, ' even in the hymns of the Rig 
Veda we can see advancing from a simple and 
unconnected form to compact and multiform shapes, 
had now spread themselves over the entire life of 
the people, and in the hands of the priests had 
become a power predominant over everything else.' 
At the time when the subsequent Aryan emigrants 
started for Lower Bengal, the priestly class had 
been recognised as the head of society, but no sharp 
distinctions among the general mass of the people 
seem to have been formed. The settlers in Lower 
Bengal naturally set up as Aryans of the highest 
class in their new homes, just as every Englishman 
in India during the last century claimed for him- 
self the title of Esquire.^^ The Aryans were the 
aristocracy of Lower Bengal, the Brahmans were 
the aristocracy of the Middle Land ; and when a 
rigid division of the people took place in the parent 
country, the aristocracy of the distant province 
claimed the same rank and the same title as the 
aristocracy of the fatherland. This rank was never 

'■'■ ' It is only after the Aryan tribes had advanced southward, and 
taken quiet possession of the rich plains and beautiful groves of 
Central India, that they seem to have turned all their energies and 
thoughts from the world without them to that more wonderful nature 
which they perceived within.' — Max Miiller's History of Ancient San- 
skrit Literature, 8vo, London 1859, p. 25. 

^^ Witness ' The Humble Petition of Mr. ' in the Calcutta 

Gazette of the 15th January 1789. I have seen an advertisement in 
an early Calcutta paper, in which a military man notifies that he 
disclaims the title of Esquire. 


fully given, however. The mere name of Brahmans 
the Aryans of the south-east settlements might 
easily usurp, but the Brahmans of the Middle Land 
never admitted them to equal honour with them- 
selves. The Brahmans of Lower Bengal bore to 
the Brahmans of Oudh the same relation that the 
landed gentry of Canada or Australia bears to the 
landed gentry of England. Each is an aristocracy, 
both claim the title of Esquire, but each is composed 
of elements whose social history is widely different, 
and the home aristocracy never regards the success- 
ful settlers as their equals in rank. The Brahmans 
of the Middle Land went further : they declared the 
Brahmans of Lower Bengal inferior not merely in the 
social scale, but in religious capabilities. To this 
day, many of the north country Brahmans do not eat 
with the Brahmans of the Lower Valley ; and con- 
victed felons from the north-west will suffer repeated 
floggings in jail for contumacy, rather than let rice 
cooked by a Bengal Brahman pass their lips. For 
ages, the Lower Bengal Brahmans were incapable of 
performing the more solemn sacrifices, and the/W 
cdinuLbii appears to have been cut off between the 
Brahmans of the south-east and those of the Middle 
Land. Later colonies of northern Brahmans could 
form no legal connection with Aryan women of the 
Lower Valley, and the children born to them by such 
mothers were renounced as illeofitimate. 

The population of Lower Bengal consists, ac- 
cording to the pandits, of five elements, who came 
into the country in the following order : \st, The 


aboriginal non-Aryan tribes ; 2d, The Vaidic and 
Sartswatl- Brahmans, who formed the first Aryan 
settlements ; 'i^d, Kshatryan refugees, who escaped 
the extermination of their caste by Parasu-Rama, 
with isolated Vaisya families, few or none of whom 
penetrated below Bahar ; \th, A later migration of 
Brahmans, circ. 900 a.d., represented by the story 
of the five Brahmans brought from Canouj by Adis- 
wara; 5///, Recent emigrants and military adventurers 
from the north, Rajputs, i.e. Kshatryas, Afghans, and 
Mussulmans of diverse races. In all this there is 
nothing of the rieid fourfold classification described 
by Manu. The native legend regarding the intro- 
duction of the third element is briefly this. King 
Adiswara of Gour, wishing to perform sacrifices 
for which the Brahmans of the Lower Valley were 
not competent, brought five Brahmans from Canouj. 
These Brahmans first settled on the east side of the 
Ganees, and formino- connections with the women 
of the country, had many children, whom they 
called Varindra. When they were fairly estab- 
lished, their lawful wives followed them from 
Canouj, and the husbands, leaving their concubines 
and illegitimate children on the east of the Ganges 
(at Bikrampur in Dacca), crossed the river with 
their legal wives and their offspring. From these 
legitimate children the Rari, i.e. the Brahmans of 
the western districts of Lower Bengal, are de- 
scended. This took place about 900 a.d., and 
the rival claims of the old and the new settlers 
soon became a source of national disquiet. Two 


centuries afterwards, Ballal Sen, the last Hindu 
sovereign of Bengal, found it necessary to settle 
questions of precedence by a comprehensive classi- 
fication of his Aryan subjects. Many of the older 
families of the province were amalgamated with the 
new-comers. Almost all of pure Aryan descent 
were admitted to equal rights, and of the ancient 
settlers very few recognised descendants now pre- 
serve their identity.^^ Several mixed castes were 
derived from the followers of the Canouj Brahmans 
(such as the Cayasths) ; but of the other two 
Twice- Born castes, as described by Manu, viz. 
the Kshatryan and the Vaisya, scarcely a single 
family exists in the southern valley, which cannot 
trace its origin to the north within comparatively 
recent times, and the rigid fourfold classification of 
society laid down by Manu is practically unknown 
in Lower Bengal. 

1 am aware that this conclusion is capable of 
being misunderstood, and likely to be mis-stated. 
The actual condition of society, with its cruel dis- 
tinctions, will be cited against me. Jagganath, 
Gya, nay, the Holy City within the district of 
Beerbhoom itself, will be enumerated as abiding 
testimonies to the thoroughgoing character of Hin- 
duism in Lower Bengal. The superstitions of those 
celebrated shrines, however, are easily accounted 
for by the strong reaction in favour of Hinduism 

2" This account is abbreviated from the statements of my pandits, 
and from reports of professional Hindu genealogists. See also Cole- 
brooke's Examinations of the Indian Classes, As. Res. vol. v., and 
Essays, vol. ii. pp. 187-90, 8vo, 1837. 


after the expulsion of Buddhism only eight cen- 
turies ago. The social distinctions, more cruel in 
Lower Bengal perhaps than in any other part of 
India, proceed from a different cause. 

The Sanskrit-speaking settlers found the land 
already peopled. Their predecessors are still an 
ethnological mystery, and except in a few frontier 
districts like Beerbhoom, they succumbed so com- 
pletely beneath the new-comers, that their separate 
existence has been forgotten for more than a thou- 
sand years by the composite people which they 
helped to form. As countless species of animals 
once covered the earth's surface which have left 
no type in the zoology of the present day, so vast 
races of the human family have lived and worked 
out their civilisation and vanished, with regard to 
whom history has up to the present been mute. 
Geologers tell us that, in a primeval age, myriads 
of gigantic birds, of which no representative 
remains, left their footprints in the sands of 
Connecticut ; that they waded in boundless shal- 
lows now dried up into solid stone, feeding upon 
mail-covered fishes, which now lie side by side with 
them in the rock, and preyed upon by monsters 
still larger than themselves, but equally extinct 
before man was born. The primitive races of India 
resemble in many ways these birds of the Lias. 
Like them, they perished in prehistoric times ; and 
of many of them, all that can with certainty be said 
is, that they once were and now are not. Philology, 
which speaks so clearly with regard to other extinct 


races, has hitherto had nothing definite to say 
respecting them. To this day they remain an 
unclaimed, ignoble horde, of whose origin we know 
nothing, with whom not one of the great races will 
acknowledge relationship, and who occupy the 
background of Indian history as the jungle once 
covered the land, only to prepare the soil for higher 
forms of life. ^^ 

The conflict with the cliildren of the soil is the 
first historical fact related in Sanskrit literature. 
The passions it excited intrude themselves alike in 
the hymns of the priest, the maxims of the lawgiver, 
and the legends of the epic poet. Many of the 
Vedic chants, like some of the Psalms of David, 
were poured forth as prayers for deliverance, or 
as thanksgivings for victory. They describe the 
enemy in the strong, telling words which men use 
in moments of excitement ; and in judging of the 
aborigines from the delineations of Sanskrit writers, 
we must remember that the picture is by an un- 
friendly hand. After the actual struggle was over, 
and the beaten races had fallen back into the forest, 
another element came into play still further to dis- 
tort the Aryan accounts of them. They shared the 
fate of the children of Rephalm"^ in Semitic history, 

2® Lassen barely refrains from denying their existence. 

-^ The giant aborigines of Palestine, ' who belonged so entirely to 
the dim distance, that their name " Rephaim" was used in after- 
times to designate the huge " guardians," or the shado^\y ghosts of 
the world below.' — Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, by 
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D.D., 8vo, London 1863, p. 208. Cf. also 
the Shepherd Tribes of Egypt (Milman's History of the Jews, vol. 
i.), and the Typhonians, or subjects of the Eastern Pharaohs who 


and became the demons and fallen angels of San- 
skrit literature.'^*' 

The population of Lower Bengal ethnically con- 
sists, therefore, of two elements : first, the Aryan 
invaders, almost all of whom assumed the rank of 
Brahmans ; second, the aborigines whom these 
invaders found living in the land, and whom they 
speedily reduced to the alternative of serfdom on 
the open country or flight into the jungle. The 
great gulf between the conquerors and the con- 
quered has never been bridged ; and the social 
distinctions that disgrace Hindu society are not 
distinctions between various ranks of the same 
people, but distinctions between too widely diverse 
and long hostile races. Manu's fourfold classifica- 
tion, which we have seen is strictly predicable only 
of the Sanskrit Centre or Middle Land, is based upon 
a twofold classification applicable to Lower Bengal 
and every other part of India — to wit, the Aryan, or 
Twice- Born, as Manu calls them, and the non- Aryan 
tribes. Kshatryas and Vaisyas are to be found in 

opposed Mencheres, but in Greek literature are associated with the 
Hellenic giant and demon Typhon. — Osburne's Monumental History 
of Egypt, vol. i. p. 350, 8vo, 1854. 

^^ The Rakhshasas, from whose power the ancient sacrifice im- 
plored the protection of the Sanskrit gods, and who are represented 
in the person of Ravana (J. e. Rakhshasendra) and his imps at Ben- 
gali theatricals to this day. The aborigines of Ceylon had the same 
opprobrious name affixed to them, as Chinese travellers and Cingalese 
chroniclers attest. Sir Emerson Tennent writes the word as ' Yakko,' 
evidently the same as ' Rakko,' which is the colloquial form of the 
Sanskrit Rakhshas. — Mahawanso, cap. vii. Rajavali, p. 172 ; quoted 
in a note to Sir Emerson Tennent's Ceylon, vol. i. 332 ; cf. also 328, 
370, etc., third edition. 


large numbers only within a limited circle ; but the 
Brahman and the Sudra, with the mixed classes that 
sprang from them, form the unalterable elements of 
the whole Hindu population throughout India. 

How these ethnical distinctions became em- 
bittered, it Is not difficult to understand. The 
superiority on the side of the Aryans was so great, 
that they looked upon the aborigines as lower 
animals,'^^ in the same way as the Beerbhoom 
Brahman of the present day who goes to settle 
in the adjoining Santal highlands despises, and 
until recently enslaved, the humble tribes he finds 
there. In every point in which two races can be 
compared, the aborigines, called in early Sanskrit 
literature Dasyans,''^ were painfully inferior. Their 
speech was of a broken, imperfect type. The Aryan 
warrior used to pray for victory over ' the men of 
the inarticulate utterance'^^ and 'of the uncouth 
talk.'^^ From the lips of the Aryan flowed a 
language instinct with tenderness and power; a 

^1 They appear in the great epic under the name of the Monkey 
Tribes ; in the Himalayas and Ceylon as the Snakes (Nagas), in 
which form they may also be seen at Hindu theatricals of the present 
day. They come upon the stage dressed up as the demon inhabitants 
of the lower regions (Patala), with human faces, a serpent's tail, and 
sometimes with broad hoods representing the expanded neck of the 
Cobra (Coluber Naga). 

^^ The word appears as Dasyu and Dasa. The latter survives, 
unchanged, as a family name among the Hinduized aborigines at 
this day, and is popularly spelt Doss. 

=53 Mridhravach. But cf. Bohtlingk and Roth. 

3* Anasa, Mlechha. Of these words diverse interpretations have 
been brought forward. The rendering above given has ample autho- 
rity on its side, and after Professor Goldstucker's criticisms this is as 
much as can be said of many Vedic epithets. 


language equipped with the richest inflections and 
a whole phalanx of grammatical forms ; one which 
clearly uttered whatever it was in man's lot to suffer, 
and whatever it was in his mind to conceive, and 
which from the beginning of recorded time stands 
forth in one form or other as the vehicle of his 
highest intellectual efforts. It is not difficult to 
understand the contempt with which the Sanskrit- 
speaking conquerors regarded a speech squeezed 
into such narrow and so ignobly objective moulds 
as that of the ancient Dasyans or their descendants, 
the present hill-tribes of the northern frontier. Of 
this language the most striking features are its 
multitude of words for whatever can be seen or 
handled, and its absolute inability to express reflex 
conceptions of the intellect;"^ the absence of terms 
representing relationship in general, and conspicu- 
ously the relationship of cause and effect ;®° its 
meagreness in giving utterance to the emotions, 
those higher forms of consciousness in which pas- 
sion is happily blended with reflection ; and its total 
barrenness of any expressions to shadow forth the 
mystery of man's inward life ; ""'^ — a language of 

^^ In Kocch, Bodo, and Dhimal, there is not a single vernacular 
word to express matter, spirit, space, instinct, reason, consciousness, 
quantity, degree, or the like. — Essay on the Kocch, Bodo, and Dhimal 
Tribes, by B. H. Hodgson, Esq., late of the Bengal Civil Service. 
Vocabulary, p. 1 1 et seq. 

^** In Bodo and Dhimal, cause and effect cannot be expressed at 
all, and in Kocch only by words borrowed direct from Sanskrit. — 
/^. p. 13. 

^'' Nor have the above languages any terms for earth, heaven, 
hell, this world, or the next. The Dhimal-speaking tribes have 
adopted pure Sanskrit words to express these ideas. The Bodos 

VOL. I. H 


sensation rather than of perception ; of the seen 
rather than of the unseen ; of the present rather 
than of the future and the past. 

Perhaps the circumstance which more than any 
other single cause tended to widen the gulf between 
the races, was their difference In colour.^^ The in- 
vaders came of a northern stock, and deeply felt 
that repugnance which the white man everywhere 
entertains to the black. The ancient singer praises 
the god who ' destroyed the Dasyans and protected 
the Aiyan colour ;'^'^ and 'the thunderer who be- 
stowed on his white friends the fields, bestowed the 
sun, bestowed the waters.'^" Whatever obscurity 
may attach to the latter passage, there can be no 
doubt of the abhorrence with which the sinofers 
speak again and again of 'the black skin.'" They 
tell us of the ' stormy gods who rush on like 
furious bulls and scatter the black skin;' and of 
' the black skin, the hated of Indra,' being swept 
out of heaven.*^ 'Indra,' runs another text, 'pro- 
tected In battle the Aryan worshipper, he subdued 
the lawless for Manu, he conquered the black 
skln,'*^ and the sacrlficer poured out thanks to his 

have a word for the visible arch of the sky, but beyond it their imagi- 
nation does not rise. 

^^ Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts, part i. p. 43 ; part ii. p. 284, 
p. 323, etc. The following Vedic quotations are taken direct from 
the Texts, as I have not at present the means of referring to the 

^'^ Rig Veda, iii. 34, 9. *o j^ ;_ jqq^ jg_ 

^"^ ' Krishnam twacham,' Rig Veda, ix. 41, i, etc.; an epithet 
which reappears, says Muir, in the Sama Veda, i. 491, and ii. 

•*2 Rig Veda, ix. 73, 5. *3 /^/_ \ j^q, 8. 


god for ' scattering the slave bands of black descent,' 
and for stamping out 'the vile Dasyan colour.'" 

A third source of detestation on the part of the 
Aryan for the aborigines was their repulsive habits 
of eating. They respected not the life of animals ; 
some of them ate horse-flesh ; others human flesh ; 
others, again, fed on the uncooked carcase ; and all 
made use of animal food to a deeree which shocked 
the nicer sensibilities of the Aryan. The Vedic 
singers speak of them as gross, gluttonous savages, 
and concentrate the national abhorrence into one 
stinging epithet — ' The Raw-Eaters.'*^ 

Another -source of deep and abiding aversion was 
the paganism of the Dasyans. The Aryan brought 
with him highly developed beliefs, and a stately 
array of religious rites. ■*" He found himself among 
a people without any intelligible faith, and in bond- 
age to the basest fears. The two noblest doctrines 
of pre-Christian religion — the unity of God and 
the immortality of the soul — appear in the earliest 
Sanskrit writings, and have never for a moment, 
amid centuries of defeat and political degradation, 
been wholly lost sight of by the Sanskrit-speaking 

** Rig Veda, ii. 20, 7, and ii. 12, 4. The ' Dasam Varnam 
adharam ' of the latter verse is still in the mouths of many pandits 
who never had a copy of the Veda in their hands. 

■*^ ' Amad.' For a variety of phrases indicating this rej^ugnance, 
see Original Sanskrit Texts, part ii. 435. 

■*^ Those who wish to realize how deeply the early Indian thinkers 
penetrated the problems of modern ethics, may compare the beautiful 
Hindu belief, that whatever we love is loved not for itself, but as the 
dwelling-place of the First Self, with Jonathan Edwards' ' Theory of 
Degrees of Being.' 


race. The truth has been debased and overlaid 
with error, but the truth has always remained. At 
a very early period they fell into a mistake natural 
to an imaginative people, and, by recognising the 
Almighty too vividly in His more solemn mani- 
festations, became practically polytheists, worship- 
ping the work more than the Worker, the creature 
rather than the Creator, But an intellectual recog- 
nition of the unity of the Deity appears equally 
amid the supplications to gods many in the Veda, 
and the multitudinous superstitions of more recent 
Hinduism. The ancient Aryans' ' highest object of 
religion was to restore that bond by which their 
own self was linked to the Eternal Self ;'^'^ and the 
modern pandit's reply to the missionary who 
accuses him of polytheism is : ' Oh, these are 
only various manifestations of the one God ; the 
same as, though the sun be one in the heavens, 
yet he appears in multiform reflections upon the 
lake. The various sects are only different en- 
trances to the one city,'^* 

*^ MuUer's History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 19. Dr. 
Muir, in part iv. of his Texts, shows how each of the great sects 
worships his own deity as the one supreme god. ' Glory to thee,' 
prays the Krishna-worshipper, ' thou maker of all, thou soul of all, 
thou source of all, Vishnu, Conqueror, Hari, Krishna.' Then follows a 
list of the various names under which he is implored. — Sanskrit Texts, 
iv. p. 223. 

^^ This answer is mentioned by Mr. Long in his pamphlet entitled 
Notes on Visits to Pandits, p. i, 8vo, Calcutta. I have more than 
once received the same reply. For a philosophical description of the 
multiplication of gods, see Whately's Dissertation, Encyclopedia 
Britannica, vol. i. p. 465, eighth edition : ' And it would often 
happen that one set of men would venerate one image, and others 


The aborigines, so far from having a distinct 
conception of the unity of God, seemed to the 
Aryan to possess no conception of a God at all. 
Their highest religious emotion was vague dread ; 
and four Vedic epithets, with others equally full 
of detestation, depict them as the ' Rejectors of 
Indra,' ' not sacrificing,' ' without gods,' and 'without 
rites.' ^' 

With regard to another point — a point which 
forms the theological differentia of man as con- 
trasted with the beasts that perish — the invaders had 
been vouchsafed a peculiarly full illumination, while 
the aborigines remained buried in primeval night. 
The Aryans possessed an unwavering assurance of 
a future life. The lonely journey of the soul after 
its separation from the body formed, indeed, one of 
the first mysteries with which their national mind 
had grappled, and, like all the imaginative races of 
antiquity, they devised a being more divine than man, 
though originally not equal to the gods, to guidfe 
them on the dark passage. While the Egyptian 
monarch lay wrapped in essences beneath the pyra- 
mid, Theut conducted his soul to the judgment of 
the dead, Hermes performed the same office for 
the Greeks, and the Romans placed the cadiLceus^ 

another somewhat different, though originally designed to represent 
the same being. And there would also be some difference in the 
kind of worship paid to each of these images, and in the tales related 
concerning it, so that by degrees some of them would come to be 
considered as so many distinct gods.' 

49 'Anindra,' 'Ayajyu,' 'Adeva,' 'Avrata.' That these epithets 
were not applicable to all the aboriginal tribes, will appear in the next 
chapter. In some places they probably refer to Aryan schismatics. 


in the hand of Mercury. Azrail, under various 
names, has guided the Semitic tribes of all ages and 
creeds to one ultimate neutral ground. Yama was 
the Nekropompos of the Aryan race. The earlier 
form of his story is preserved on the Persian side 
of the Himalayas. Yima, runs the Zend legend, 
was a monarch in that primitive time when sorrow, 
sickness, and death were unknown. By degrees 
sin and disease crept into the world, the slow neces- 
sity of death hastened its step, and the old king 
retired with a chosen band from the polluted earth 
into a kingdom where he still reigns. The Sanskrit 
version belongs to a later and more subjective 
period. According to it, Yama was the first man 
who passed through death into immortality. Hav- 
ing discovered the way to the other world, he 
obtained for himself a kingdom in it, and the tenth 
book of the Rig Veda represents him as guiding 
other men thither. In one verse he is seen feast- 
ing under a leafy tree;^" in others, as enthroned in 
the innermost heaven, and granting luminous abodes 
to the pious.^^ Meanwhile his two brown dogs, 
' broad of nostril and of a hunorer never to be 
satisfied, wander among men,'"" or, like Cerberus, 
guard the avenue to his palace along which the 
departed are exhorted to hurry with all possible 
speed. ' Reverence to Yama, who is death ; to him 
who first reached the river, spying out a road for 

^0 Rig Veda, x. 135, i. Atharva Veda, xviii. 4, 3. 
^1 Rig Veda, ix. 113, 7, 8. Id. x. 14, 8, 9, and 10. 
^2 Rig Veda, x. 14, 11, and 12. The dogs are elsewhere called 
black and spotted. Atharva Veda, viii. i, 9. 


many ; who is lord of the two-footed and the four- 
footed creatures."^ ' Worship with an offering King 
Yama, the assembler of men, who departed to the 
mighty waters, who spied out a road for many,'"' 

Incremation suggested itself to the devout Aryan 
as the most solemn method for severing the mortal 
from the immortal part of the dead. His faith, like 
our own, taught him to look upon death as a new 
birth rather than as the annihilation of being ; and 
for him the fire performed the office of a liberator, 
not of a destroyer. As a man derived his natural 
birth from his parents, and a partial regeneration, or 
second birth, by the performance of his religious 
duties ; so the fire, by setting free the spiritual 
element from the superincumbent clay, completed 
the third or heavenly birth. His friends stood 
round the pyre as round a natal bed, and com- 
manded his eye to go to the sun, his breath to the 
wind, his limbs to the earth, the water and the 
plants whence they had been derived. But ' as for 
his unborn part, do thou, Lord (Agni), quicken it 
with thy heat; let thy flame and thy brightness 
kindle it; convey it to the world of the righteous.' ^^ 

Thirteen years ago. Professor Miiller published an 
essay on the Funeral Rites of the Brahmans, in which 

S3 Atharva Veda, vi. 28, 3. But cf. Max Miiller's Lectures, 2d 
Series, p. 515. 

5* Rig Veda, x. 14, i. Those who would pursue the subject 
further, may do so with great faciUty in Dr Muir's 'Yama' Journal 
R. A. S., part ii., 1865, whence the above quotations and those 
immediately following are derived. 

S3 Funeral hymn to Agni, to be chanted while the body was being 


he cites a sort of liturgy with which the Aryan used 
to bid farewell to his friend while the body lay upon 
the pyre. ' Depart thou, depart thou by the ancient 
paths to the place whither our fathers have departed. 
Meet with the ancient ones;^'' meet with the Lord 
of Death ; obtain thy desires in heaven. Throw- 
ing off thine imperfections, go to thy home. Become 
united with a body ; clothe thyself in a shining form. 
Go ye; depart ye; hasten ye from hence.'" The 
responses might then fitly come in : ' Let him depart 
to those for whom flow the rivers of nectar. Let him 
depart to those who through meditation have ob- 
tained the victory, who by fixing their thoughts on 
the unseen have gone to heaven. . . . Let him depart 
to the mighty in battle, to the heroes who have laid 
down their lives for others, to those who have be- 
stowed their goods on the poor.'^^ Returning to 
the direct form of address : ' May sweet breezes 
blow upon thee. May the water-shedding angels 
bear thee upwards, cooling thee with their swift 
motion through the air, and sprinkling thee with 
dew.' ' May thy soul go to its own, and hasten to 
the fathers.' The service might fitly conclude with 
a chorus from the Veda : ' Bear him, carry him ; let 
him, with all his faculties complete, go to the world 
of the righteous. Crossing the dark valley which 
spreadeth boundless around him, let the unborn 
soul ascend to heaven. . . . Wash the feet of him 
who is stained with sin ; let him go upwards with 
cleansed feet. Crossing the gloom, gazing with 

56 The Pitrs. " Rig Veda, x. 14. =8 /^_ x. 154. 


wonder in many directions, let the unborn soul go 
up to heaven.' ^^ 

Of the doctrine of transmigration there Is not a 
trace in the earlier Veda. The circle round the 
pyre sang with the firm assurance that their friend 
went direct to a state of blessedness and reunion 
with the loved ones who had gone before. ' Do 
thou conduct us to heaven (O Lord), let us be with 
our wives and children.'^*' ' In heaven, where our 
friends dwell In bliss, having left behind the infir- 
mities of the body, free from lameness, free from 
crookedness of limb, there let us behold our parents 
and our children.' ^^ The wife also Is to be united 
with her husband. ^^ ' Place me, O Pure One, In 
that everlasting and unchanging world, where light 
and glory are found. Make me immortal In the 
world in which joys, delights, and happiness abide, 
where the desires are obtained.'"^ ' Truly,' says 
Roth, ' we here find, not without astonishment, 
beautiful conceptions on Immortality, expressed in 
unadorned language with childlike conviction.' 

It was only to those, however, who had lived 
righteously on earth that this bright world was 
open. The idea of a future state as one of retri- 
bution did not receive full development till a later 
period than that to which the foregoing hymns 

^^ Atharva Veda, ix. 5, i. ^^ Athan^a Veda, xii. 3, 17. 

^^ Atharva Veda, vi. 120, 3. 

«2 Colebrooke's Essays, i. 116, etc., 8vo, 1837. Atharva Veda, ix. 

^'^ Address to Soma, the abstract deified form of the Hbation. — 
Rig Veda, ix. 113, 7 and 11. 


belong ; but one of the theological treatises, which 
had for their object the interpretation of these 
hymns, contains the following remarkable sentences : 
' In the next world they place a man's good and 
evil deeds in a balance. Which of the two shall 
turn the scale that he shall follow, whether it be 
for good or for evil. Now, whosoever knows this, 
places himself in the balance in this world, and is 
freed from beino- weio^hed in the next.' 

The Vedic texts cited in the foregoing pages 
evince a faith in immortality infinitely firmer than 
anything to be found either in Semitic writings,^* or 
in the subsequent Aryan literature of Greece and 
Rome. The Veda represents the departed soul as 
taking a tangible but more glorious body, and as 
living in blessed reunion with former friends and 
kinsmen. Homer's world is a dim uncertain region, 
peopled with shadows — mostly unhappy ones ; a 
world so repugnant to our inborn love of life and 
sunshine, that Achilles tells Ulysses he would 
rather be a servant upon earth than reign over all 
the departed. In the decline of paganism, the 
philosophers of the court of Julian, reading Plato 
by the light of St. Paul, could find much that was 
consoling to mortality in his pages. But we have 
the amplest evidence that the uninspired philosophy 
of Greece and Rome afforded no certain hope of 
immortality to its most accomplished disciples. 
* We are sufficiently acquainted,' writes Gibbon, 

^* Even tlie Jewish Bible fails to inculcate a future life as an 
inducement to virtuous conduct in the present one. 


' with the eminent persons who flourished in the 
agfe of Cicero and of the first Caesars — with their 
actions, their characters, their motives — to rest 
assured that their conduct in this life was never 
regulated by any serious conviction of the rewards 
or punishments of a future state.' The Tusculan 
Disputations found their argument for a state of 
eternal bliss on a false dilemma, and what Cicero 
professes to revere in the Grove, he scofls at in the 
Forum. We rise from the dream of Scipio, or 
from the arguments by which the philosophic pagan 
obtains the consoling: assurance that death is but 
a change of life, and turning to a speech by Cicero 
on behalf of a friend '^^ on trial for a capital crime, 
we find that a future life is a matter for recluses to 
amuse themselves with, but which no man of the 
world would allow to regulate his ordinary actions. 

The question is a deeply interesting one. How 
comes it that these old singers in Northern India 
had clearer and more profound conceptions of man's 
destiny than the philosophers of Greece and Rome ? 
How was it that the child knew more than the 
man, and that the light of nature waxed dimmer 
and dimmer, till it altogether disappeared ? Were 
the strong simple beliefs of the earlier time echoes 
of those lessons which Adam listened to in the 
cool of the day, and which formed a common stock 
of inspired truth for the whole primitive race of 
mankind ? — echoes that floated down fainter and 
more faint, comforting the untold generations of 

^'^ Pro Cluentio. 


primitive mankind, till they died away amid the 
clang of contending schools, and the arrogance of 
unaided reason ? This view interferes not with 
any sound theology. ' In the career of Balaam,' 
says Dr. Stanley, ' is seen that recognition of divine 
inspiration outside the chosen people, which the 
narrow^ness of modern times has been so eager 
to deny, but which the Scriptures are always ready 
to acknowledge, and, by acknowledging, admit 
within the pale of the universal church the higher 
spirits of every age and of every- nation. '^^ 

In humiliating contrast with the Aryans' assur- 
ance of immortality are the words with which the 
aboriginal tribes of the northern frontier dismiss 
their dead from this world. Of eternity they have 
not the slightest conception ; in some of their 
languages the longest period of time that can be 
expressed is the duration of a man's life, and in 
one aboriginal tongue the highest number is seven.*^'^ 
The great object of these aborigines is to get their 
dead out of their sight. The north-eastern hill-men 
hide the corpse in a hole as soon as the breath has 
left it. No stately rites are observed. The kins- 
men wash themselves at the nearest stream, and 
return to their usual work immediately after the 
interment. Among the tribes that have developed 
funeral ceremonies, a burial is only an occasion for 

^^^ Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, p. 190. Whately 
also concedes a true inspiration to Balaam. — Dissertation on the 
Rise, Progress, and Corruptions of Christianity. 

^' Bodo language. — Essay on the Kocch, Bodo, and Dhimal 
Tribes, by B. H. Hodgson, p. 117. 8vo. Calcutta, 1847. 


gluttony and drunkenness. When the feast is got 
ready, they repair to the newly made grave, and, 
presenting food and drink to the dead, bid farewell 
in the followinof sentences : ' Take and eat. Here- 
tofore you have eaten and drunken with us ; you 
can do so no more. You were one of us ; you can 
be so no longer. We come no more to you ; come 
you not to us.'''^ The parting is a final one. The 
Aryan requiem looked forward to reunion above ; 
that of the aboriginal tribes shrinks from the dead 
as from an undefined horror, and, so far from speak- 
ing of a meeting hereafter, begs that they may be 
spared the terrors of a visit. 

I have dwelt at length on the unequal degree 
of enlightenment possessed by the Aryan and 
aboriginal races, because I believe that it affords 
the true explanation of those cruel social distinc- 
tions which divide the existing population of India. 
The Dasyan appears in Sanskrit history first as an 
enemy, then as an evil spirit, then as a lower animal, 
and finally as the slave of the nobler race."^ The 
difference was infinitely greater than that between 

^* Essay on the Kocch, Bodo, and Dhimal Tribes, p. 180. The 
southern aborigines exhibit a higher class of funeral rites. 

^^ The monkey owes the respect with which the Hindus regard 
him to the friendly reception that some of the aboriginal nations 
(the so-called Monkey tribes) gave to the Aryan immigrants who 
afterwards enslaved them. Signor Gorresio has fully discussed the 
subject of the Monkey Races, in his ' Dissertations on and Notes to 
the Ramayana.' The gradations of the aborigines — as (i) enemies, 
(2) demons, (3) lower animals, (4) slaves of the Aiyans in Ceylon 
— are well marked. — Mahawanso, chap, xxxvii. Rajavali, p. 237. 
Rajarat-nacari, p. 69. Referred to in Tennent's Ceylon, i. 370, etc., 
note, 3d edition. 


the composite parts of other nations of antiquity ; 
so also was the contempt of the sujDerior for the 
inferior people. This contempt has left its mark 
on every page of Sanskrit literature, and we can 
imagine the haughty Prakrit-speaking lord regard- 
ing his bondsman's broken utterances — his go-ho 
(man), go-rum (leg), po-^a (belly) ^° — not with the 
placid contempt of the Patrician for the Plebs, or 
even with the deeper disdain of the Hellene for his 
Helot, but rather with the hatred and loathing of 
Swift's Houyhnhnms for the sputterings of their 

Nevertheless, two races cannot live for ages 
together without each affecting the other. The 
superior may force the inferior into its own moulds, 
but it cannot help being itself influenced in turn ; 
and the aborieinal tribes have done much to alter 
the language, religion, and political destiny of their 
conquerors. The influence of the aboriginal ele- 
ment made itself felt at a very early period in the 
Apabhransa or vernacular form of Sanskrit used by 
the low castes. It is termed 'a provincial jargon' 
by Donaldson, following Colebrooke, and has been 
elaborately discussed by Dr. Muir.^^ The vernacu- 
lar language of India is divided by native gram- 
marians into two parts, one derived from Sanskrit, 
the other from the aboriginal tongues. In Bengal 
the aboriginal element is called the Bhasha ; in the 

'''* A valuable list of aboriginal words will be found in the Sanskrit 
Texts, vol ii. p. 36 et seq. 

''^ As. Res. vol. vii. reprint. New Cratylus, p. 85, 8vo, 1839. 
Sanskrit Texts, part ii. chap. i. 


south of India it passes by various names, such 
as Atsu-Telugu, or more generally Desya. The 
patois of Lower Bengal, particularly as spoken by 
the common people in Beerbhoom and other dis- 
tricts on the ethnographical frontier, is full of words 
not to be derived from Sanskrit ; and although such 
words are carefully excluded from written Bengali, 
they are ever in the mouths of the husbandman, the 
herdsman, and the forester, and they have furnished 
the domestic language of affection in which the 
mother speaks to her child. In religion, the Aryans 
of the Lower Valley have unquestionably borrowed 
much of their demon-worship from the aborigines, 
and of that anxiety to propitiate the malignant 
rather than serve the beneficent deities, which now 
forms so marked and so deeradingf a feature of 
Hindu superstition. Indeed, I shall afterwards 
show that the Sivites — a sect which during the past 
six centuries has drawn within itself the great 
majority of the Indian people — derived its object 
of worship from the aboriginal tribes. Whatever 
mythology Siva or Rudra may originally have 
belonged to, there can be no doubt that Siva- 
worship, as performed in Lower Bengal, is the 
reverse of the Aryan spirit of devotion, and repre- 
sents the superstition of the black races. Signor 
Gorresio points out how in the old times the chief 
object of adoration among the aborigines was this 
terrible deity, whom they appeased with human 
blood. The first aim of the British Government 
on acquiring a province has always been to put 


down such sacrifices ; but in seasons of scarcity, the 
priests of Lower Bengal still offer up children to 
the insatiable demon who terrified the forest tribes 
three thousand years ago. 

During 1865-66 such sacrifices were had re- 
course to in order to avert the famine. They were 
few in number, the police being specially on the 
alert, and the authorities having got warning by 
the publicity which the press gave to the two cases 
that were brought to lioht. The followinof are the 
details of a human sacrifice in 1866 in the Jessore 
district, one of the oldest settled and most enliofht- 
ened parts of Bengal : ' A Mahommedan boy about 
seven years of age was found in the scaffold-room 
adjoining a temple of Kali (the wife of Siva), at 
Luckipassa, with his neck in the harcaf, or wooden 
scaffold, and his neck cut. The tongue was fixed 
between the teeth, the eyes open, clotted blood on 
his body, which was quite exposed, and two cuts of 
a kJmndah were visible on the neck. The sacrifice, 
it seems, was not completed, for the object is entirely 
to sever the head from the body. In a late case at 
Hooghly, the head was left before the idol decked 
with flowers.''' A mono- the aboriginal tribes to 
the south-west of Beerbhoom I heard vague reports 
of human sacrifices in the forests, with a view to 
procuring the early arrival of the rains. 

The same proneness to demon-worship and 
deprecatory rites exhibits itself in every part of 
India, and always with a force in proportion to the 

" The Englishman of the 19th May 1866. Calcutta. 


Strength of the aboriginal element in the local 
population. In Northern India, throughout the 
whole Middle Land of Manu, the aborigines com- 
pletely succumbed beneath the Aryans, and demon- 
worship hardly appears. In Lower Bengal, where 
the Aryan element did not wholly overpower the 
aboriginal, demon-worship in a mitigated shape 
forms part of the popular rites ; among the forest 
tribes of the central table-land, where the Aryans 
never settled, it is the only religion known ; and in 
Ceylon, where they settled in comparatively small 
numbers, it lies at the root of the whole rural wor- 
ship. The strictest of the Hindu kings of Ceylon 
found himself compelled to support the village 
devil-dancers at the public cost. Buddhism over- 
powered Hinduism, but it wholly failed to put 
down, and at length was fain to connive at demon- 
worship ; the Portuguese and Dutch clergy could 
convert the people from Buddhism, but lament their 
inability to weaken the tenacity of the Cinghalese 
to devil-sacrifices ; and Wesleyan and Baptist mis- 
sionaries in Ceylon, while able to make Protes- 
tants of Roman Catholics, cannot purify their most 
promising catechumens of these aboriginal supersti- 

A more pleasing subject is the worship of the 
village and household gods in Lower Bengal, — a 
harmless superstition which the Hindus have unmis- 
takeably derived from the aboriginal tribes. How 
this worship is carried on by the hill-races, I shall 

''^ Sir Emerson Tennent's Ceylon, i. 542, 3d edition. 
VOL. I. I 


afterwards describe. On the plains, the village god 
has ever been an object of veneration with the low 
castes of mixed descent, rather than of the Brah- 
mans, and in many places the worship has alto- 
gether died out among the higher ranks. At the 
beginning of this century, however, Buchanan found 
it existing everywhere throughout the north-western 
districts of Lower Bengal. ' The vulgar,' he says, 
* have never been entirely able to abandon the wor- 
ship of the village deities, and imitate their ancestors 
either by making such offerings as before mentioned 
(betel, red lead, rice, water) to an anonymous deity, 
under whose protection they suppose their village 
to be, or call by that name various ghosts that have 
become objects of worship, or various of the Hindu 
Devatas. The ghosts, in fact, and the others called 
village deities, seem to be the gods most usually 
applied to in cases of danger by all ranks, and their 
favour is courted with bloody sacrifices and other 
offerings. They are not in general represented by 
images, nor have they temples ; but the deity is 
represented by a lump of clay, sometimes placed 
under a tree, and provided with a priest of some 
low tribe,' '^ i.e. sprung from the aboriginal element 
in the population. Several of these village gods 
are older than the Aryan settlement, being deified 
personages sprung from the aboriginal tribes, whose 
distinctive nationality has been forgotten for ages 
in the districts where their representative men are 

'* History, etc., of Eastern India, from the Buchanan MSS., vol. 
i. p. 190. . 


still worshipped. Everywhere the ceremonies bear 
the stamp of the old superstitious terrors, and the 
carnivorous, gluttonous habits of the black races. 
Indeed, Buchanan well describes them as ' sacrifices 
made partly from fear, and partly to gratify the 
appetite for flesh.' ^^ The fierce aboriginal instincts, 
even in the mixed castes, who approach nearest to 
the Aryans, and accept in a greater degree than 
their neighbours the restraints of Hinduism, break 
loose on such festivals ; and cowherds have been 
seen to feed voraciously on swine-flesh, which at all 
other times they regard with abhorrence. In Beer- 
bhoom, particularly in the western border-land, this 
worship is very popular, and once a-year the whole 
capital repairs to a shrine in the jungle, and there 
makes simple offerings to a ghost who dwells in a 
Bela-tree.^" In spite of the tree being, at the most, 
seventy years old, the common people claim the 
greatest antiquity for the shrine ; and tradition says, 
that the three trees which now mark the spot 
neither grow thicker nor increase in height, but 
remain the same for ever. As in all ceremonies 
which partake of the aboriginal worship, blood is 

" History, etc., of Eastern India, from the Buchanan MSS., vol. 
i. p. 194. 

'''' The shrine is situated far in the jungle between Pattra village 
and Nagri, some distance past Buttaspore. It consists of three trees : 
a Bela tree on the left, in which the ghost resides, and which is 
marked at the foot with blood ; in the middle is a Kachmula tree, and 
on the right a Saura tree. Devotees throw down their offerings of 
earth, rice, and money before the trees, while a priest stands ready to 
strike off at a single blow the heads of such victims as are presented, 
returning the body with his blessing to the offerer. 


copiously poured forth, and the day ends with a 
feast upon the victims. The very offerings bear 
witness to the primitive state of the tribes among 
whom the superstition took its rise. Only the rich 
sacrifice goats, the ordinary oblation being a handful 
of earth thrown down before the divinity, with a 
few grains of rice or a copper coin from those who 
can afford it. 

The difference between the worship of the abori- 
ginal Siva and of the village deities is, that the 
former has been adopted by the Brahmans or 
Hindus of pure Aryan descent, while the latter 
have remained in the hands of the mixed mass of 
the population. Yet, in ancient times, Siva-worship, 
now universal throughout the whole lower valley of 
the Ganges, seems to have been as unpopular with 
the Brahmans as the simple village divinities now 
are ; while even the most despised of these latter 
relics of antiquity at the present day finds some 
needy priest of the sacred class to officiate at its 
shrine. Siva is not, indeed, the only aboriginal deity 
who has risen to distinction among the mixed people 
of Bengal ;" but he happened to resemble in many 
particulars a Sanskrit divinity with whom he became 
identified, and whose name he now bears. It is 
curious to notice that Siva-worship, like demon- 
worship and the adoration of the village gods, has 
a hold on the people always in proportion to the 

''' Buchanan speaks of a village god of quite modern origin, Malik 
Baya by name, who was universally worshipped in Bahar and the 
adjoining countries. Many others might be mentioned. 


Strength of the aboriginal element. His great 
shrines are among the hills which separate the 
aboriginal from the Aryan races, or on some other 
frontier of Sanskrit civilisation. The scenes of his 
adventures are placed among the Himalayas, and 
thousands of pilgrims travel every year to his altars 
in the highlands of Beerbhoom. As Professor Wil- 
son justly remarks, Siva-worship has ever been one 
of mystery ; a worship bare of the charming legends 
which grew up so luxuriantly around the objects 
of adoration of the more cultivated race, and one 
whose sole visible representation is a rude emblem.^® 
Yet Siva-worship is the only form of religion which 
has now any hold on the masses in the Lower 
Valley. Krishna or Vishnu is the god of the 
higher castes, and his worship is looked upon as 
a spectacle or entertainment rather than as a serious 
office of religion. In all time of need it is on Siva 
— a deity scarcely known to the earliest Aryan 
writers — that the Bengali populace calls. 

I hope that my desire fully to bring out the 
effect of the aboriginal superstitions on the religion 
of the Hindus has not led me to overstate the 
truth. The impossibility of applying the Aryan 
faith, as represented in classical literature, to the 
existing religion of Lower Bengal, first attracted 
my attention to the subject. Conversations with 
learned Brahmans suggested that the wide differ- 

''^ Essays and Lectures on the Religion of the Hindus, by H. H. 
Wilson. Collected Works, i. 189, Triibner, 1862. The origin of 
Siva-worship will be minutely discussed in the following chapter. 


ence between their own doctrines, even when most 
orthodox, and the popular beHefs of Hinduism, was 
a difference not only in degree, but in kind, — a differ- 
ence not of education, but of race. In this difference 
lies the explanation of the esoteric and the exoteric 
religions of the Hindus; the former representing 
the faith which the Aryan settlers transmitted to 
their children of pure descent, the latter the patch- 
work of superstitions which the mixed population 
derived from the black-skinned, human-sacrificing, 
flesh-eating forest tribes. The widespread corrup- 
tion of Aryan faith which followed, according to 
Sanskrit authors, immediately on the mingling of 
the two races and the consequent growth of mixed 
castes,^^ affords strong corroborative proof of this 
view ; and the religion of the inferior Eurasians, 
sprung indiscriminately from Portuguese, Dutch, 
French, English, Hindu, and Mussulman parents, 
is as degrading, if not so idolatrous, as that of the 
mixed castes of ancient India. But what eventually 
led me to diverge so widely from the commonly 
received view was a three years' residence on the 
border-land between the Hindus and the aborieines. 
The population of the hills and of the plains glide 
into one another, carrying with them their respective 
customs, beliefs, and superstitions. From the black 
squat tribes who inhabit the tops of the mountains, 
to the tall olive-coloured Brahman of the capital of 
Beerbhoom, with his intellectual brow, calm eyes, 

'■^ Known to English readers as the ' Burrun Sunken' — Halhed's 
Gentoo Code, Preface, p. 103, 8vo, 1781. 


and high but narrow head, there are a hundred 
imperceptible gradations through the aborigines of 
the slopes and the low castes of the valleys. ^"^ So, 
too, with their religion. It is easy to point out 
superstitions which in some parts are considered as 
purely aboriginal, and which the Brahmans regard 
with all the aversion that the Levites entertained 
toward the abominations of the Canaanites, but 
which in other districts hold a position more than 
half-way between the two religions. This is par- 
ticularly noticeable in the worship of the village 
deities. Where the population is entirely aboriginal, 
such rites are held to be purely aboriginal, and no 
respectable Brahman would pollute himself by offi- 
ciating at them. Where the population is mixed, 
and the semi-Aryan masses worship the old village 
or forest deities, the worship is deemed half Hindu, 
and some necessitous priest is found to undertake 
the office. In still more perfectly Hinduized dis- 
tricts, a little fraternity of Brahmans may be found 
attached to each favourite village god, and in some 
places such deities form the popular worship of the 
whole Hindu people. From the ghost-worship in 
the Beerbhoom jungle, and the sacrifices to Malik 
Baya and similar deified personages in Bahar, to the 
worship of Siva, is only a step ; and it is impossible 
to study the border population without coming to 
the conclusion, that Siva, now universally adored 

80 Dowries, Bagdis, etc., are found both in the hills and on the 
plains. In the courts of justice it is constantly necessary to ask wit- 
nesses belonging to these castes whether they belong to the Hindu or 
the Santal {i.e. aboriginal) families of the same patronymic. 


by the Bengali people, with his colleges of priests 
in every city, his conical shrines on every road-side, 
and his noble flights of steps at every few miles 
along the holy river, is only the last and highest 
link of an uninterrupted chain of superstitions which 
unites the two races. 

Marked as the influence of the aboriginal tribes 
has been upon the language of Bengal, still more 
marked and pernicious as their influence has been 
upon its religion, they have exercised an infinitely 
more abiding and more baneful effect upon the 
social condition and the political destiny of the 
people. It is chiefly to the presence of a hetero- 
geneous population of mixed descent, the Bengalis 
owe it that they have never been a nation ; for 
two races, the one consisting of masters, the other 
of slaves, are not easily welded into a single na- 
tionality. Concession must precede union, and a 
people have to make some advance towards beine 
one socially before -it xan become one politically. 
During ages the Sanskrit element kept disdainfully 
aloof from the aboriginal, denying it every civil, 
political, and religious right. Not to speak of the 
jiis suffragii, or the jus /wnorniu, the J7is commcrcii 
was granted only under the severest restrictions, 
and upon the most unfavourable terms, to the servile 
race. The meanest trades alone were open to it ; 
and while the twice-born tribes retained all the 
more profitable and honourable branches of in- 
dustry as their heirlooms, they could at any time 
set up as rivals to the low castes in the wonted 


occupations of the latter, if necessity or conveni- 
ence urged them so to do. There was one law 
of inheritance for the Aryan, another for the non- 
Aryan •,^^ and of the humanizing influences by which 
intermarriage reconciles hostile races they knew 
nothinor. Cohabitation between the ruline and the 
servile castes fell in certain cases within the penal- 
ties of sacrilege and incest ; and to this day the most 
enlightened Hindu would regard such a union with 
all the abhorrence that the Romans felt towards the 
marriage of their emperor with the German princess 
who, though according to international equity the 
wife, has come down in history as the concubine of 

For this disdain the Aryans of Lower Bengal 
have had to pay dearly. It is a bad thing for a 
race to be able to get other people to do its work 
during three thousand years. The higher classes 
of Hindu society, by their inbred dislike and con- 
tempt for manual industry, disabled themselves 
from becoming a wealthy or powerful people, and 
are at this moment being ousted from many posts 
of emolument by the despised miked multitude who 
have for ages done the work of the country, but 
who now for the first time are secured by an im- 
partial government in the fruits of their labour. 
Even in education, the immemorial monopoly of 
the Brahmans, the competition of the non-Aryan 
element is beginning to be felt. In the Beer- 
bhoom public school, which stands first of three 

^^ Manava-dharma-sastra, ix. 156, 157. 4to, 1825. 


hundred educational institutions in the south-west 
division of Lower Bengal,*^ a man belonging to 
what used to be considered a very degraded caste 
is now head-master ; and throughout the whole 
country, thousands of Brahman boys are Instructed 
by teachers whose family names (Dass) proclaim 
them the descendants of the enslaved aboriginal 
tribes (Dasyu), Accustomed to look upon toil as 
a mark of slavery, the Hindus have never worked 
more than was necessary to supply their wants. 
Capital, therefore, the surplus of production above 
consumption, has never existed ; and in the absence 
of capital, any high advance In material civilisation 
is impossible. Another element of such an advance, 
co-operation, has been equally unknown. Division 
of labour, in its literal sense of giving to every man 
a separate employment, has indeed been carried to 
its utmost length ; but the division of labour. In its 
economical signification as a method of co-operation, 
has been rendered impossible by the contempt 
which divides man from man. On this subject, 
false appearances, and inaccurate names for these 
appearances, have led many writers into error. 
Division of labour, as a term of Political Economy, 
means a division of processes in. order to an ulti- 
mate combination of results. Division of labour, 
as predlcable of Indian art or manufacture, means a 
division of results (each man being able to do only 
one thing) effected by a combination of processes 

^- Report on Public Instruction. Lower Provinces, 1865-66. 
Appendix, p. 235. 


(each man performing the whole of the processes 
requisite to produce the single result). The Indo- 
Aryans have paid a heavy penalty for debasing 
the humbler children of the soil, by that stagna- 
tion and incapability of national advancement which 
has formed the most conspicuous difference be- 
tween them and other families of the same noble 
stock. They refused to share their light with the 
people who dwelt in darkness, and for ages any 
further illumination has been denied to themselves. 
But this has not been their whole punishment. 
In the pride of intellect, they condemned a people 
strong-armed, but of meagre intelligence, to per- 
petual slavery while living, and refused them admit- 
tance to their own bright world when dead. Hence 
the reticence of the Bengali people, each caste 
keeping its sympathies for its own members, dread- 
ing the classes above it as conquerors or tyrants, 
and disdaininof to admit the classes below it into 
its confidence. In their turn, the Aryan population 
of India hajf<»been subdued by successive waves 
of conquerors, inferior to them in their boasted 
intellect, but able to wield the sword with a more 
powerful right hand than is given to a people who 
shift the labour of life on to servile shoulders, 
Afghan, Tartar, and Mogul, found the Indo- 
Aryans effeminated by long sloth, divided amongst 
themselves, and devoid of any spirit of nation- 
ality. Thus for seven centuries has Providence 
humbled the disdainful spirit of Hinduism beneath 
the heel of barbarian invaders, grinding together all 


classes of people as upon the nether millstone, and 
slowly bringing on the time foretold in the Sanskrit 
Book of the Future,^^ when the Indian people shall 
be of one caste, and form one nation. That this 
time is now not far off, no one who is acquainted 
with the Bengalis of the present day will doubt. 
They have about them the capabilities of a noble 
people. What they want is social amalgamation, 
to be effected, not as the Sanskrit prophet predicts, 
by the universal corruption of the Indian races, but 
as the Christian devoutly hopes, by their universal 

Having thus unfolded the terms upon which the 
Aryan and aboriginal races combined to form the 
mixed Hindu population of the lowlands, I proceed 
to examine the condition of the tribes who, among 
the hills and western fastnesses, have preserved 
their primitive descent intact. 

^^ The Bhavishya Purana. 

^* Throughout this chapter I have stated my own views without 
enlarging upon, or sometimes even adverting to, the existence of dif- 
ferent opinions. I have done so not from want 6f respect for the 
views of others, but because the nature of the work precluded the 
discussions that such statements would lead to. To take a single 
instance. Vedic scholars are at variance as to the meaning of Dasyu, 
some translating it as ' demon,' others understanding it to refer to the 
aborigines. I have accepted the latter view without comment ; and I 
notice that Max Miiller, in his ' Chips,' gives his authority to it. Un- 
fortunately, his admirable volumes did not reach me till this chapter 
was in type, and I have therefore been unable to make use of or refer 
to them. 




' T N every extensive jungly or hilly tract through- 
out the vast continent of India, there exist 
hundreds of thousands of human beingfs in a state 
not materially different from that of the Germans 
as described by Tacitus.' ^ With these words the 
investigator of the Indian aborigines introduced 
what he intended to be the first of a series of 
volumes on the Black Races of Beno-al. That 
a section of the human family, numbering not 
less than thirty millions of souls, should have 
lived for a century under British rule, and that 
their origin, language, and manners of life should 
be still unknown to the civilised world, affords 
abundant matter for reflection. While the fair- 
skinned race which usurped the plains has be- 
come the favourite child of modern scholarship, 
the dark-faced primitive heritors of the soil have 
continued as we found them, uncared for, despised, 

1 The Kocch, Bodo, and Dhimal Tribes, by B. H. Hodgson, Esq., 
of the Bengal Civil Service, p. 2, preface. 8vo, Calcutta 1847. 


hiding away among their immemorial mountains 
and forests. The study of Aryan speech has done 
more in half a century to explain the history of man, 
than all the previous efforts of fifty generations of 
scholars. From the discovery of Sanskrit a new 
era of human thought dates. Sanskrit grammar 
forms the keystone of philology, and Sanskrit ethics 
have left their impress deeply graven on modern 
philosophy. But the other races — races which have 
a history more ancient and perhaps not less in- 
structive than the Aryans, if we could only find 
it out — have been wholly overlooked. The few 
inquirers who at an early period interested them- 
selves in the subject, were cut off or otherwise 
interrupted before their researches went far enough 
to attract, or indeed to merit, the attention of 
European scholars, and Government has too gene- 
rally dealt with the aborigines of Bengal as with 
tribes incapable of improvement — as a race from 
whom the best that can be hoped is that it will keep 
quiet till it dies out. 

The aboricrines in Southern India have received 
a little more attention, but their past is still un- 
explained. In Madras and Bombay the purely 
aboriginal element appears in such strength in the 
vernaculars — forming three-quarters of the whole 
Telugu vocabulary — that it was impossible wholly 
to overlook the races from which it was derived.^ 

- Atsu-Telugu or purely aboriginal words form one-half of the 
whole vocabulary : Tatsaman and Tadbhavan, or words directly or 
indirectly derived from the Sanskrit, form one quarter ; Anya desyam, 
or words borrowed from aboriginal dialects other than the Telugu, 


Some acquaintance with non-Aryan philology be- 
came a political necessity. But in Bengal the San- 
skrit entirely overpowered the aboriginal element, 
and any researches into the primitive tribes have 
been prompted by disinterested motives. To Mr. 
Hodgson and the few inquirers who have followed 
at a distance in his steps, greater honour is due than 
the actual results obtained would seem to justify. 

In the hope that I may be able to interest both 
the scholar and the statesman in these lapsed races, 
I purpose in the following chapter to set forth what 
I have been able to learn regarding the history, 
the language, the manners, and the capabilities of 
the mountaineers of Beerbhoom. The scholar will 
find that their language and traditions throw an 
important light on an unwritten chapter in the 
history of our race. The Indian statesman will 
discover that these Children of the Forest are not 
so utterly fallen away from the commonwealth of 
nations as he has supposed, that they are prompted 
by the same motives of self-interest, amenable to 
the same reclaiming influences as other men, and 
that upon their capacity for civilisation the future 
extension of English enterprise in Bengal in a large 
measure depends. 

For ordinary purposes, the twofold division of 
the Indian races into Aryans and aborigines is suffl- 

form one quarter. When the labours of Mr. Ellis of the Madras 
Civil Service, the Rev. Dr. Caldwell, and Mr. A. D. Campbell, in 
Southern India, are seconded by researches among the aboriginal 
tribes of the north, scholars will have sufficient evidence to pronounce 
upon the existence of a primitive Tamulian stock. But not till then. 


dent. But when we come to look narrowly into 
the matter, it appears that, while the Aryans embrace 
a single family only, under the term aborigines are 
included at least several races differing from each 
other as widely as the Japanese differs from the 
Egyptian or from the Dane. The physiologist, 
judging from the features and bodily structure, 
pronounces that certain of the Indian aboriginal 
tribes bear a strong affinity to the Malay race ; that 
others are equally closely related to the Chinese ; 
and that others, again, are unconnected, or very 
distantly connected, with either. Philology has up 
to this time eiven forth no certain sound on the 
subject ; and, indeed, all that linguistic research 
has done, is to involve the question in still greater 
mystery, by revealing a multitude of languages 
apparently devoid of affinity to each other. In a 
single thinly-peopled tract, one inquirer counted 
twenty-eight distinct dialects, mutually unintelligible 
to the different tribes who use them;'^ and the whole 
number of aboriginal tongues throughout India is 
not less than two hundred. Whether, like the 
hundred and thirty languages that Pliny says were 
spoken in the Colchian market-place, these will 
ever be shown to be long separated members of 
the same family, is a point on which no one in our 
present state of knowledge can pronounce ; but such 

^ In the district between Kamaun and Assam. Among the Naga 
tribes also, living in a small district near Assam, about thirty diffei-ent 
languages exist, affording a striking proof of the tendency of unwritten 
speech to split up into numerous dialects. An intervening hill, a ravine, 
or a river, is enough to divide the language of a district. 


a union can only result from a careful scrutiny of 
the isolated members. 

When this chapter was begun, four years ago, I 
had intended to append to it a comparative grammar 
and vocabulary of six aboriginal languages, includ- 
ing that of the highlanders of Beerbhoom, as a con- 
tribution towards a more exact knowledge of the 
non-Aryan races of India. But in the course of 
subsequent researches in the India Office Library, 
two large trunks of manuscripts, the result of Mr. 
B. H. Hodgson's labours during thirty years among 
the Himalayan tribes, passed into my hands. At 
first it was proposed to incorporate this unpublished 
collection with the present chapter ; but I found 
that, to do Mr. Hodgson's discoveries justice, the 
entire volume would barely suffice. It has there- 
fore been determined to compile a distinct work on 
the aborigines of Northern India, based upon Mr. 
Hodgson's researches ; and it seems unnecessary to 
swell this book with vocabularies, which will find a 
more suitable place among the eighty non-Aryan 
languages which I hope to bring together in the 
proposed volume. 

The Santals or hill-tribes on the west of Beer- 
bhoom belong to that section of the aborigines 
which physically resembles neither the Chinese 
nor the Malay. The Santal is a well-built man, 
standing about five feet seven, weighing eight stone, 
without the delicate features of the Aryan, but un- 
disfigured by the oblique eye of the Chinese, or the 
heavy physiognomy of the Malay. His skull is 

VOL. I. . K 


round, rather than broad or narrow ; his face is also 
round, rather than oblong or square ; the lower jaw 
is not heavy ; the nose is irregular ; the lips are a 
little thicker than the Aryan's, but not thick enough 
to attract remark ; the cheek-bone is higher than 
that of the Hindu, but not higher in anything like 
the degree in which the Mongolian is, rather as the 
cheek-bone of a Scotchman is higher than that of 
an Englishman. He is about the same height as 
the common Hindu, shorter than the Brahman of 
pure Aryan descent, heavier than the Hindu, hardier 
than the Hindu, more squarely built than the Hindu, 
with a forehead not so hio^h, but rounder and broader; 
a man created to labour rather than to think, better 
fitted to serve the manual exigencies of the present, 
than to speculate on the future or to venerate the 

The Santals inhabit the whole western frontier of 
Lower Bengal, from within a few miles of the sea to 
the hills of Bhagulpore. Their country is the shape 
of a curved strip, about four hundred miles long by 
a hundred broad, giving an area of forty thousand 
square miles. In the western jungles they are the 
sole population ; in a large tract towards the north 
they form nineteen-twentieths of it ; in the plains 
the proportion is much smaller, and indeed the race 
gradually slides into the low-caste Hindus. They 
certainly number a million and a half and probably 
approach two millions of human beings, claiming 
a common origin, speaking one language, following 
similar customs, worshipping the same gods, and 


forming in all essentials a distinct ethnical entity 
amonof the aborio^inal races. 

The present generation of Santals have no de- 
finite idea of where their forefathers came from. It 
is a race whose subsoil of tradition is thin and poor. 
Written documents they have none. Go into one 
village, mark what appears on the surface, listen to 
the chants of the young men, hear the few legends 
which the elders relate at evening under the shade 
of the adjoining Sal Grove, and subsequent investi- 
gations will not materially change first impressions. 

The earliest fact of which the race seems to 
have been conscious, was the vicinity of stupendous 
mountains. Before man was, the Great Mountain 
talked to himself in solemn solitude. The Moun- 
tain communes with the Creator at man's birth ; 
clothes him, and teaches him to produce the first 
comforts of life. The Mountain, by bringing 
together the first pair in marriage, stands as the 
fons et origo of the race. Their legend of the 
creation runs thus. In the old time that was before 
this time, the Great Mountain stood alone among 
the waters. Then the Great Mountain saw that 
birds moved upon the face of the waters, and he 
said within himself. Where shall we put these 
birds ? let us put them on a water - lily in the 
midst of the waters, and let them rest there. 
Then were huge prawns created, and the prawns 
raised the rocks from under the waters, and like- 
wise the water-lily. Thereafter the rocks were 
covered with diverse manner of creeping things ; 


and the Great Mountain said, Let the creeping 
things cover the rocks with earth, and they covered 
them. And when the rocks were covered, the Lord 
of All commanded the Great Mountain to sow grass ; 
and when the grass grew up, the first man and 
woman arose from two duck's eggs that had been 
laid upon the water-lily. Then the Lord of All 
asked of the Great Mountain, What are these ? 
And the Great Mountain answered. They are man 
and woman ; since they are born, let them stay. 
After that the Lord of All told the Great Moun- 
tain to look once again, and behold the man and 
woman had grown up, but they were naked. So 
the Lord of All commanded the Great Mountain to 
clothe them, and the Great Mountain gave them 
cloth, to the man ten cubits, and to the woman 
twelve cubits ; and the man's clothing sufficed, but 
the woman's sufficed not. 

Then the man and woman being faint, the Great 
Mountain commanded them to make strongr drink. 
He gave them a handful of leaven, saying, Place it 
in a pitcher of water, and after four days come 
again. So they put it in a pitcher, and after four 
days came again, and behold the water had become 
the strong drink of the Santals. Then the Great 
Mountain gave them leaves wherewith to make 
cups, but commanded them, before they drank, to 
pour forth an offering unto him. 

Thereafter the Great Mountain said. The land is, 
the man is, and the woman is ; but what if the man 
and woman should die out of the land ! Let us 


make them merry with strong drink, and let children 
be born. So the Great Mountain made them merry 
with strong drink, and seven children were born.^ 

So the man and the woman increased and multi- 
plied, and the land could not hold all the children 
that were born. In this time they dwelt in Hihiri 
Pipiri, but when the land would not hold them 
they journeyed to Chae Champa ; and when Chae 
Champa would not hold them they journeyed to 
Silda ; and when Silda would not hold them they 
journeyed to Sikar, and from Sikar they journeyed 
to Nagpur, and from Nagpur to the north, even to 

Such is the story of the creation and dispersion 
as related in the western jungles of Beerbhoom by 
men who know not a word of Bengali, and who 
dread the approach of a Hindu towards their village 
more than the night-attack of a leopard or tiger. 
Legends almost word for word the same are told 
by the Santals of the south and of the north ; and 
if it be possible for ignorance, hatred, and terror of 
the stranger to keep the legends of a race free from 
foreign elements, then these represent purely abo- 
riginal traditions. I do not believe, however, that 
perfect seclusiveness is possible ; and after a minute 
research into such scraps of history as exist, and a 
careful examination of their language, I am inclined 
to think that they have unconsciously grafted San- 
skrit incidents and scenery on what are at bottom 
distinct aboriginal legends. 

■* Modesty compels this part of the legend to be curtailed. 


I give in an appendix" a literal translation of six 
legends, as delivered to the Rev. Mr. Phillips by 
the Santals of Orissa, two hundred miles distant 
from the section of their countrymen among whom 
the foregoing were gathered, and separated from 
them by jungles, rivers, and the absence of any 
means of written communication. 

No one can fail to be struck by the analogies 
which these traditions bear to the Mosaic and to 
the Sanskrit accounts of the creation. The earth 
covered with water, the raising up of the land, its 
preparation for mankind, the nakedness of our first 
parents, the divine provision for clothing them, 
and the subsequent dispersion, are points in com- 
mon ; but I belive that in the Santal Genesis, as 
in that of other races not of Aryan or Semitic 
descent, the tradition of the creation is mixed up 
with one of the deluge, if indeed the creation with 
these less gifted tribes does not begin with the 
flood. The Aryans, who have distinct traditions 
relative to both events, speak in very different terms 
of the two. Their legend of the creation is wrapt 
up in mystery hardly less solemn than the brief 
majestic verses of Moses, while their legend of the 
deluge is one of practical details. ' Then there was 
neither entity nor nonentity,' runs the Vedic account 
of the creation ; ' there was no atmosphere, nor any 
sky beyond it. Death was not then, nor immor- 
tality ; there was no distinction of day or night. 
The One breathed calmly with nature ; there was 

^ Appendix G. 


nothing dififerent from It or beyond It. Darkness 
there was.' On the other hand, the Sanskrit story 
of the deluge, Hke that in the Pentateuch, makes no 
mystery of the matter. A ship is built, seeds are 
taken on board, the ship is pulled about for some 
time by a fish, and at last gets ashore upon a peak 
of the Himalayas. 

The Santal legend describes rather the subsidence 
of waters than a creation, and the striking features 
of such a subsidence are accurately detailed. The 
Great Mountain first stood forth from the deep, 
while marine fowls and aquatic plants continued to 
live upon the surface of the water. As the flood 
went down, rocks appeared, with shell-fish, prawns, 
and other crustaceous animals. On its further sub- 
sidence, it would leave the earth covered with 
worms and the countless creeping things with which 
the slime of a retreating tropical river teems. Then 
would spring up a luxuriant covering of grass, and 
the earth would be ready for its human occupants. 
The prominent mention both in the Mosaic and the 
Santal legends of the use of strong drink, and of in- 
decencies committed under its influence, is certainly 
a curious coincidence ; perhaps it is nothing more. 

Another coincidence — I do not venture to call 
it an analogy^is to be found in the number of 
children born to the first pair. As the Santal 
legend immediately divides the human species into 
seven families, so the Sanskrit tradition assigns the 
propagation of our race after the flood to seven 


The mountain home from which the Santals 
issued, and to which their eariiest traditions point, 
was unquestionably among the Himalayas. The 
hills, or rather the table-lands of Central India, 
are not of a character sufficiently striking to have 
left so permanent an impression on the Santal 
mind, and there is no evidence of their ever hav- 
ing been near the higher Vindhya ranges. Nor 
is it possible to understand how they could have 
reached the Central Table-land, unless from the 
north. With the Malay type and with the Malay 
language their features and their speech have no 
affinities ; of the sea or of the larger marine fishes 
they have no traditions ; and we can believe their 
legendary mountain home to have been in the 
south instead of in the north, only if we are willing 
to concede that they are a distinct race, created 
among the hills of Central India, and not descended 
from the same first parents as the rest of mankind. 

But the traditions and religious beliefs of the 


Santals are stamped with the influence of another 
natural phenomenon besides the Great Mountain. 
A mighty river always affects more or less per- 
manently the people who dwell upon its banks, and 
such a river forms the second fact in the outward 
world of which the Santal race display conscious- 
ness. In the country which they now chiefly in- 
habit, and have lived in for ages, mountain streams 
abound ; but none of them attains the dignity of a 
great river.^ The largest of them, the Damooda, 

^ This paragraph refers to the Santals adjoining Beerbhoom, not 


is fordable even in a carriage during many months 
of the year. While, therefore, the aborigines of 
the north-east frontier, hving in a land of mighty 
waters, have a crowded Pantheon of river deities or 
demons,' the aborigines of the Santal country have 
not been able to find a single stream worthy of 
being erected into a national god. Nevertheless a 
faint remembrance of the far-off time when they 
dwelt beside great rivers, still exerts its influence. 
The only stream of any consequence in their present 
country — the Damooda — is regarded with a venera- 
tion altogether disproportionate to its size. Thither 
the superstitious Santal repairs to consult the pro- 
phets and diviners, and once a year the tribes make 
a pilgrimage to its banks, in commemoration of 
their forefathers. The ceremony is called the Puri- 
fying for the Dead ; and the influence anciently 
exerted by great rivers on the Santal beliefs has 
been of so permanent a character, that to this day 
the omission to visit, at least once a year, the single 
river they possess, is visited among some families in 
the Beerbhoom highlands by loss of social privileges. 
The same influence makes itself apparent in the 
touching and beautiful rite, by means of which they 
unite the dead with the fathers. However remote 
the jungle in which the Santal may die, his nearest 
kinsman carries a little relic of the deceased to the 

to those of Orissa in the extreme south, or of Rajmahal on the 
northern frontier of the race. 

^ See the hst of deities worshipped by the Assamese hill-men, 
given in Mr. Hodgson's Essay on the Kocch, Bodo, and Dhimal 
Tribes, p. 166. 


river, and places it in the current, to be conveyed to 
the far-off eastern land from which his ancestors 
came. Instances have been known of a son follow- 
ing up the traces of a wild beast which had carried 
off his parent, and watching, without food or sleep, 
during several days for an opportunity to kill the 
animal, and secure one of his father's bones to carry 
to the river. 

The value of this ceremony, from a historical 
point of view, is as little affected by the circum- 
stance that the present generation of Santals can 
give no account of its origin, as its beauty is im- 
paired by the fact that the Damooda never reaches 
the great river of the East, by which, in all proba- 
bility, their ancestors travelled. These rites point 
distinctly to the influence once exerted on the race 
by the presence of mighty streams ; and the waters 
of the Damooda, laden with offerings of filial piety, 
mino-le at last in the common ocean with the waters 
of the great eastern river which in bygone times 
received their forefathers' bones. 

I have enumerated the various countries through 
which the Santals say they travelled towards their 
present territory, not because I can derive much in- 
formation from them myself, but in the hope that 
other inquirers may, by identifying them, establish 
conclusively the Santal line of march. Where 
Hihiri Pipiri may be, or where Chae Champa and 
Silda may be, I know not for certain ; but it is 
worth mentioning that Pipiri-am means in Santali 
a butterfly, and that Hihiri is merely a reduplicative 


form of it. If Hihiri Pipiri signify the Butterfly 
Land, it would be in the temperate climate which 
the Himalayas afford. Neither Hihiri nor Pipiri 
occurs in Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, or Urdu. The 
second country, Chae Champa, where the Santals 
are said to have first become numerous, is possibly 
the Land of Flowering Trees, the term being a 
reduplicative plural of Champa, a flowering tree. 
This would have been in the higher valleys of the 
Brahmaputra. With Sikar, the fourth on the list, 
we touch solid ground. It lies upon the Damooda, 
almost within the ancient district of Beerbhoom, and 
now forms one of the chief places of pilgrimage of 
the race. While the Santals to the south of the 
Damooda say they come from the north, those to 
the north of it point to the south as their former 
country ; so that it may be assumed that they 
reached the valley of that river not from the north 
or the south, but from the east or the west. As 
they moved westwards from Sikar to Nagpur, within 
historic times, the east remains as the direction from 
which they came, being pushed gradually on from 
the open country to the mountains, as the Hindu 
population advanced. That this was their general 
route, an examination of their manners and habits 
of life will place beyond doubt. They have neither 
the sullen disposition nor the unconquerable laziness 
of the very old hill-tribes of Central India ; they 
have carried with them from the plains a love of 
order, a genial humanity, with a certain degree of 
civilisation and agricultural habits, which hundreds, 


perhaps thousands, of years have not been able to 
efface. Their very vices are the vices of an op- 
pressed and a driven-out people who have lapsed 
from a higher state, rather than those of savages 
who have never known better things. 

The laneuag-e of the Santals, that intangible 
record on which a nation's past is graven more 
deeply than on brass tablets or in rock inscriptions, 
is as rich a field of inquiry as their traditions are 
meagre and barren. It belongs to the order of 
speech which, starting from monosyllabic roots, 
form their inflections by the aid of pronominal 
particles. It is therefore distinct from the Chinese 
types, devoid as they are of inflectional structure, 
and still further apart from the Semitic tongues, 
which start from dissyllabic verbal bases consisting 
of three letters.^ As its roots are inflexible, it is 
equally repudiated by that great family of languages 
based on monosyllabic flexible radices, to which our 
own belongs, and of which Sanskrit exhibits the 
most perfect development. Never subjected to 
the conservative influences which written docu- 
ments exert, and indeed devoid of any written 
character whatever, it has come down to the present 
generation shrivelled and disintegrated, rather the 
debris of an ancient lano-uaofe than that ancient 
language itself. Nevertheless it still survives as a 
breathing linguistic organism connecting the present 
with an unfathomed past, and furnishing hints of 

■'* A. W. von Schlegel's Observations sur la langue et littdrature 
Proven^ales, p. 14. 



grammatical forms infinitely more numerous and 
complicated than were guessed of by Panini. 

In the Appendix" will be found an outline of the 
Santali grammar, from which scholars who work at 
leisure, and surrounded by the appliances of philo- 
logical research, may perhaps derive wider and 
sounder conclusions than I can. The following 
pages bring to a common focus the results which 
the few and scattered investiofators of the Santal 
race have arrived at ; and even if some of my deduc- 
tions should be proved to* be unsound, the facts will 
remain at the service of those who may make a 
better use of them.^'^ 

In excavating the Santal language, the first 
feature that attracts notice is, that although it pos- 
sesses no letters or written character, the Sanskrit 
alphabet exactly represents all its sounds. How- 
ever copious an alphabet may be, it never precisely 
fits a language of a different stock from that for 
which it was made. Thus the Perso-Arabic alpha- 
bet, one of the most exhaustive that has been framed, 
possesses no equivalents for at least two of the 
Sanskrit vowels, for two of the Sanskrit nasals, and 
probably for the Sanskrit v sound. The Sanskrit 
alphabet, on the other hand, has no equivalents for 
the five z sounds in the Semitic tongues, and is 
forced to the barbarism of using a / roughly to re- 
present them. Nor has it an equivalent for the hard 

^ Appendix H. 

^•^ Besides MS. contributions placed at my disposal, I have made 
constant use of the Rev. J. Phillips' Introduction to the Santal Lan- 
guage, Calcutta 1852, with MS. additions by other missionaries. 


Semitic aspirate, nor for the second k sound, nor for 
ain and ghain. Tradition relates how the Greek 
alphabet, at first consisting of the primitive sixteen 
Semitic characters, had to borrow four other signs 
to represent Greek speech ; and If any one will write 
a line of Homer with only the original sixteen letters, 
and then try to read it out, he will realize the diffi- 
culty of representing speech belonging to one of the 
great families, by an alphabet constructed for a lan- 
pfuaofe belonofinof to another. Nor does the San- 
skrit alphabet accurately represent the utterances of 
the Indian aborigines in general ; indeed, the most 
carefully studied, and perhaps the most widely 
spoken of these aboriginal tongues — the one which 
has been taken as the type of all the rest — contains 
articulations that cannot be conveyed by any alpha- 
bet in which Sanskrit Is written. The southern 
aborigines have not only sounds unknown to Aryan 
speech, but they also want other sounds which the 
Aryan alphabets very minutely express. ^^ 

Now we know that the primitive Sanskrit alpha- 
bet was deficient in consonants, and required several 
new letters to represent the articulations of the races 
whom the Aryans found settled In the land. From 
the circumstance that the Sanskrit consonants, as 
finally developed, precisely fit Santal speech, with- 
out either deficiency or redundancy, excepting v, it 
appears likely that the aboriginal race whom the 
Aryan immigrants chiefly dealt with, and from 

1^ Note by Mr. F. W. Ellis to the preface to Campbell's Telugu 


whom they supiDlemented their consonantal sounds/^ 
were either the ancestors or a cognate tribe of the 
ancestors of the Santals. The fact that several 
Santal words are to be found in very old Prakrit 
gives additional likelihood to this conjecture. 

Language is resolvable into two elements — 
pronouns and roots. The latter .represent the 
material framework, the former the organic and 
formative principle, which is to man's speech what 
the vital spark is to his body. From the roots or 
material element are derived verbs and nouns, but 
verbs and nouns in a motionless state, devoid of 
relation, and divested of the idea of position in 
space or time. Yet, in order that man may speak 
of a thing, he must first have a conception of it as 
occupying some position, either in space or in time, 
either near to himself or distant from him, as beine 
of the present or of the past, or, in the formula of 
the philologers, as belonging to the here or to the 
there. It is the function of the pronoun, understand- 
ing that term in its scientific sense, to bridge over 
this gulf between mind and matter, and to form out 
of inert nouns and verbs the locomotive and half- 
vital organism of human speech. 

The STRUCTURE of language means the method 
according to which these two elements, the pronoun 
and the root, combine, the changes which they 
undergo in the process, and the relation which they 
bear to each other when united. In former times 
grammarians pronounced languages distinct if they 

^- August Schleicher, Compendium, sec. 122. Weimar, 1866. 


emj)loyed different sets of pronouns and roots. 
Modern philology has shown that such differences 
are often apparent rather than real, and that, even 
when real, the languages may nevertheless be con- 
nected. Similarity or dissimilarity in words affords 
a much less conclusive proof, one way or the other, 
than resemblance or want of resemblance in structure. 
Structure, indeed, is admitted to furnish the only 
perfectly reliable test by which to compare one 
tongue with another, and to settle its proper place 
In the great commonwealth of languages. But 
although this is admitted, structure has not yet 
been heartily accepted as the basis of classification. 
At present languages are arranged in four divisions : 
\st, The monosyllabic uninflected type, or Chinese ; 
id, The monosyllabic (biliteral) inflected type, or 
Indo-European ; 3^/, The triliteral inflected type, or 
Semitic ; \th, The residue, such as the Turanian and 
African, with the dialects of America and Australia. 
In this arrangement no single principle of classifica- 
tion Is adhered to. It separates the first two classes 
on account of difference In structure, — the one being 
Inflected, the other uninflected. It separates the 
second from the third on account of difference In 
their roots, — the second being based on biliteral, 
the third on triliteral radices. Accordinsf to the 
first principle, that of structure, the fourth class 
might be Included as Imperfect forms of the second 
or third ; for languages of the fourth class exhibit 
a kind of Inflection. Accordlno- to the second 
principle, that which refers to the roots, the fourth 


class might be placed under the first or second ; for 
it consists of dialects based on monosyllabic roots. 

The new lights have come from Germany. 
Adopting structure as the basis of classification, 
and adhering to it throughout, August Schleicher 
has sketched a systematic arrangement of languages 
which must sooner or later supplant the unscientific 
one described above.^^ According to his plan, 
speech belongs to one or other of the three following 
types : \st, The isolating languages, consisting of 
mere roots, incapable of forming compounds, and 
not susceptible of inflectional change. The Chinese, 
Anamitic, Siamese, and Burmese exemplify this 
class. 2d, Compounding languages, consisting, like 
the first, of roots which undergo no change, but 
which, unlike the first, are capable of forming com- 
pounds, and susceptible of inflection by means of 
the addition, insertion, or prefixing of * sounds that 
imply relation.' To this family belong the Finnic, 
Tataric, Dekhanic, and Bask, the speech of the 
aborigines of America, the South African or Bantu 
dialects, and, in general, the greater number of 
languages. 'X^d, Inflecting languages, consisting of 
roots that undergo change in inflection, and which 
are also susceptible of inflection by means of prefixes 
or suffixes. The Semitic and the Indo-European 
form two widely separated families of this class. ^* 

^' Compendium der Vergleichenden Grammatik der Indoger- 
manischen Sprachen, von August Schleicher. 8vo. Weimar, 1866. 

^* Id. p. 3. Schleicher represents the first, or simple-root class, 
by Rj the second, or root and suffix class, by Rs'', the union of the 
Rs indicating that the root and suffix form one word, and the ^ that 

VOL. I. L 


I purpose to examine, as briefly as possible, 
according to this new method, the structure of 
SantaU, and to ascertain its place in the great 
community of languages. Such an inquiry, how- 
ever essential to a thorough understanding of the 
rural population of Bengal, will involve technicali- 
ties that may prove distasteful to some readers. 
Those, therefore, for whom a philological exctirsus 
possesses little interest, can pass on to page 179, 
where they will find its main results concisely set 

That Santali does not belong to Schleicher's 
first class — the Isolating languages — a single ex- 
ample is sufficient to prove. The word for tiger is 
kul ; and if a Santal wishes to denote the dual of 
this noun, he does not say 'two -tiger' or 'tiger- 
two,' using distinct words as a Chinaman would, but 
compounds the root ktil with a dual suffix kin, and 
makes one word of it ; thus, hdkin. In the same 
way he expresses the jDlural, not by two words, 
' tiger-many,' as the Isolating languages do, but 
by compounding the root with the plural suffix ko ; 
thus, kiilko. The kin and the ko are not mere 
additions. They are to a certain extent incorpo- 
rated with the root, and the compounds thus 
formed become bases for the declension of the 
dual and plural : thus, genitive dual, kulkin-rini, 

the suffix is susceptible of change in the process of combination ; the 
third is represented by R^ s^^ , the x above the R and the j expressing 
that both root and suffix are susceptible of change during the pro- 
cess of inflection. There is some little confusion on this point in 
Schleicher's text (p. 3), but it is cleared up in the Addenda. 


of two tigers ; dative plural, kulko-then, to or near 
to several tigers, 

Santali, therefore, must belong either to the 
second or third of Schleicher's classes ; and to find 
which of the two it falls under, it is necessary to 
ascertain whether, in compounding its cases and 
tenses, the root undergoes any change. To ensure 
perfect accuracy at this stage, every part of speech 
ought to be examined, and the Santal roots should 
be traced through the various cognate languages. 
Such a review would occupy many pages ; but a few 
examples will suffice to illustrate how it ought to 
be gone about, and to indicate the process by which 
I have arrived at my conclusion on the subject. 
First, of the Santal nouns : the root never under- 
goes change in its internal structure, nor does it 
even admit of elisions or phonetic changes of its 
terminal letter. Thus, not only do nouns ending in 
a consonant — like herein ' man ' — continue the same 
in all the oblique cases of the singular, dual, and 
plural ; but Santali is so jealous of any change in the 
root, that it does not permit the conjunction of ter- 
minal vowels in declension with suffixes beginning 
with a vowel. Thus, bade, ' the banyan tree,' com- 
pounded with iate, the suffix of the instrumental 
case, does not undergo any alteration, such as 
baday-iate, but remains bade-iatc ; nor does kada, 
a ' buffalo,' with the same suffix, exhibit the G^ma 
change, kade-ate or kadayate, but continues kada- 
iate. In the same way with the verbs : the root 
taken, ' remain,' forms its numbers, persons, and 


tenses not by alteration in its own structure, but 
by the addition of suffixes. Thus, future, taheii- 
a'i, ' he will remain ; ' taken-akm, ' they two will 
remain;' tahcn-ako, 'they will remain' (plural). 
Imperfect tense, tahen-en-ai, 'he remained;' tahen- 
en-akm, 'they two remained;' tahen-en-ako, 'they 
remained.' Pluperfect tense, tahen-len-ai, ' he had 
remained;' dual, tahen-lcn-akin ; plural, tahen-len- 
ako. Subjunctive mood, ta/icn-cko-e, ' he may re- 
main;' potential, tahen-kok-ai, 'he might remain;' 
imj^erative, taheii-mai ; infinitive, taken- te, or among 
the northern Santals taken. Participles : taken-kate, 
' remaining ;' taken - en - kkan, ' having remained.' 
Gerunds : taken-ente, taken-lente, and taken-akante, 
' by remaining.' 

Occasionally, but rarely, the verbs exhibit pho- 
netic changes of terminal vowels, and in a single 
instance of a terminal nasal. 

The pronouns are more complicated, but the 
changes they exhibit in the roots arise from em- 
ploying different bases in the dual and plural. 
These changes are principally confined to the first 
person. Thus: ing, 'I'; alim or alam, 'we two;' 
ale or aban}^ 'we' (plural). Am, 'thou;' dual, 
aben ; plural, ape. 07ia, ' it ; ' dual, onakin ; 
plural, onako or onko. 

Santali, therefore, does not belong to the truly 
Inflecting Languages, which change their roots to 
form some of their oblique cases and moods, but to 

^° The Rev. J. Phillips ; but cf. the dual and plural of the Sanskrit 


-Schleicher's second class — the Compounding Lan- 
guages. This family occupies, so far as its structure 
is concerned, an intermediate position between the 
other two. The simplest form of speech is the 
Isolating, which modifies its roots not by forming 
compound cases or inflections, but simply by add- 
ing other roots. It is represented by R + r + r, etc. 
The next class has a certain agglutinative power, 
by which it combines the simple roots with other 
roots signifying relation, and which are generally 
termed pronouns or pronominal particles. If we 
consider these pronominals as debased or disinte- 
grated roots, and represent them by the initial letter 
of that word, the formula of the second class would 
be R r, the union of the laree and small r indicat- 
ing that the two roots, the base and the inflection, 
become a compound word. Sometimes the inflec- 
tional root undergoes change ; and this fact may be 
represented by placing x above the second r, so 
that Schleicher's second class may be represented 
either as 7? r or 7? r •^. In his third class, the roots 
— i.e. the base and the pronominal — are still more 
; closely united, and both may undergo change ; the 
formula therefore is R"" r^. 

So far, therefore, as structure is concerned, no 
break or chasm can be found between the multiform 
varieties of human speech. They rise one above 
the other by easy gradations, each class exhibiting 
a higher degree of activity than the one below it. 
The Isolating class cannot form compounds, and 
express themselves by an endless string of inco- 


heslve roots ; thus, R\r ad infinihtm. The Com- 
pounding class have a certain agglutinative power by 
which the pronominals, or roots expressing relation, 
stick to the main root of the word, but the main 
root undergoes no change; thus, Rr or Rr^. In 
the Inflecting class, the cohesive powers are still 
stronger, the roots expressing relation are firmly 
cemented with the main root of the word, and the 
main root has a self-inflecting power of expressing 
moods and cases by changes within itself; thus, 
R^r"". The three classes represent different stages 
of formative activity ; and, without laying undue 
stress on the comparison, it is curious to notice the 
fact that each of the great families of the human 
race has exhibited more or less political and social 
activity In proportion to the formative powers of the 
language which it speaks. The Burmese, Chinese, 
and Anamitic nations disclose a tendency to political 
isolation, and an absence of ethnic vitality singularly 
analogous to their monosyllabic isolating speech. 
The class above them, the Tataric tribes, who from 
time to time have rolled down in masses upon 
Europe and Southern Asia, developed a more active 
genius, with a larger capacity for organized enter- 
prise, just as their language developed the formative 
principle in a greater degree than the Chinese. 
The third class, the Aryan and Semitic stocks, 
exhibit the highest form both of social and linguistic 
activity, rearing for themselves orderly empires alike 
in the physical and the metaphysical worlds, and 
displaying the same strong vitality in their political 


history and practical life as in their speech. It 
would be easy to push the comparison further, and 
to show, for example among the Compounding class 
of languages, that the nations which have played 
the most active part in the world have also evolved 
the richest grammatical forms. The Tungusic 
family have never exhibited vitality either in their 
political movements or in their speech ; the Mon- 
golic are a stage higher in both ; while the Turkic 
and Finnic branches stand at the head of Turanian 
mankind, whether we judge of them by their lan- 
guages, or by the creative energy to which Europe 
owes the Ottoman empire and the Kudic Kale- 

In India, all the three classes of languages meet 
as upon a common camping-ground. Bengal, with 
its dependencies, forms a vast basin into which every 
variety of speech has been flowing since prehistoric 
times. There the whole philological series will be 
found, each stratum lying above its predecessor ; 
from the Isolating languages, that hard primary 
formation, through the secondary layers of the 
Compounding class, up to the most recent deposits 
of Inflecting speech, the alluvial Bengali and Hindi. 
Thus : . 

{Burmese : ^^ Chinese, spoken by settlers in the 
large towns ; the dialects of some of the 
tribes on the eastern and south - eastern 
frontier of Bengal. 

''"' August Schleicher, Compendium, p. 3, 2d ed. 


The Himalayan dialects : ^'' Santali, Kol, and 
so far as has been ascertained, the lan- 
guages of the hill-tribes in general through- 
^" ''^ ■ \ out Bengal and Southern India. 

Second Class : 
7? rand Rr^ Lan- 

\ Aryan Branch: Sanskrit; Hindusthani ; Ben- 
gal; Hindi, etc. Semitic Branch: the 
Arabic of the Mussulman ministers of re- 
Third Class : ) ligion, etc. Semi-Aryan: the half-Arabic 

7?-»';'-'^ Languages. \ Persian which until recently was the official 

language, and still forms the vernacular of 
the upper classes of the Mussulman popu- 

The study of Sanskrit speech in Northern India 
has brought to Hght the affinities of the long separated 
Aryan members of the Inflecting class of languages, 
and proved the common parentage of two-thirds of 
civilised mankind. But this forms only a single 
family of the world's inhabitants. The study of the 
aboriginal dialects of Bengal is destined, I believe, 
to do a similar work for the vast ethnical residue ; 
to construct a well-connected series out of scattered 
fragments, and possibly at some distant date to 
furnish the connecting links between the three Qfreat 
orders of human speech. The materials which 
Turanian scholars in Europe, such as Klaproth, 
A. Remusat, and Castren, had to collect by 
laborious research or perilous travel, lie at the very 
door of the Indian missionary or magistrate, and 
official machinery might be easily and inexpensively 
set in motion for making a clean sweep of the 
whole non-Aryan languages of Bengal. 

^^ The ranges to the east of the higher valley of the Brahmaputra 
appear to form a linguistic watershed. Assam, a district of Lower 
Bengal, is an ethnical as well as a political frontier. 


Two things have to be done — to collect the voca- 
bulary, and to compile the grammar of each group 
of dialects. Until a comprehensive comparative 
dictionary be drawn up, it is impossible to pronounce 
on the phonetic changes the letters are subject to 
in the Compounding class of languages, and hence 
also impossible to recognise with certainty the same 
root under the diverse costumes in which it may 
appear in different parts of the country. This work 
has been already accomplished for the Aryan lan- 
guages, and scholars can now pronounce with toler- 
able certainty what alterations each letter undergoes 
in any specified variety of inflecting speech.^^ 

For the compilation of aboriginal grammars and 
their classification, Schleicher's method affords valu- 
able hints. His business is exclusively with the 
Inflecting class ; but he states that the second class, 
the Compounding languages, to which the aboriginal 
dialects of India belong, are formed by the union 
of the root with prefixes, insertions, aud suffixes. 
Leaving out the middle variety for the sake of 
clearer illustration, we obtain four simple and four 
complex orders from the other two. Thus, (i) the 
root with a suffixed pronominal root unchanged, 
R r, (2) or with the pronominal changed, R r"" ; (3) 
the root with a prefixed pronominal root unchanged, 
r R, (4) or with the pronominal changed, r^ R. 
The possible Compound varieties are formed by 

^'^ Grundziige der Griechischen Etymologie, von Georg Curtius, 
pp. 120, 121, 2d ed., Leipzig 1866; or Schleicher's better arranged 
table of consonant-changes, Compendium, p. 340, 2d ed., Weimar 


attaching both a prefix and a suffix to the root ; 
thus, (5) r7?r, (6) r^'Rr, (7) rRr'', (8) r^'Rr''. 
Here, therefore, we have a scientific method of 
arrangement, beginning with a class almost as de- 
void of life as the Isolating languages, and ending 
with one which would exhibit a formative activity 
hardly exceeded by the Inflecting. If the scattered 
investiofators of the aboriofinal races of India would 
agree to accept this or any other uniform method, 
and thus bring their results to a common focus, the 
chief obstacle in the way of non-Aryan philology 
would be got rid of. The combination of the sym- 
bolic letters may be made to indicate the whole 
number of possible species. All that the Indian 
students have to do is to arrange each language in 
its proper class, leaving the hypothetical existence 
of the other species, and all doubtful topics of 
speculation, to European scholars. 

Although Santali is proved from its structure to 
belong to the Compounding class of languages, and 
to the second or R r'' species of that class, it never- 
theless exhibits curious analogies to languages of 
the Inflecting order, and in particular to Sanskrit. 
Many of these analogies may be explained away by 
the contact of the Sanskrit-speaking population, but 
all cannot. Three of the Santali pronouns and three 
sets of nouns will suffice to illustrate this : — 

There is a curious particle, cJiit, in Sanskrit, which 
never stands by itself as a personal pronoun, but is 
used to impart indefiniteness to the relative. Thus, 
kas, who, with the particle chit added to it, becomes 


kas-chit, some one. The same particle supplies the 
indefinite conjunction diet, if. But this particle, which 
in the Sanskrit tongue has almost dropped out of 
the rank of independent pronominals, and clings as 
an affix to a stronger root, stands forth in Santali as 
the pronoun of indefiniteness, resting on its own 
strength, and the parent of a numerous family of 
words. Thus Santali, diet, what ; chet-hong, any- 
thing ; diet-cko, perhaps, who knows ; diet-leko, like 
what, etc. 

The Santali adjective Jo-to, all, is certainly as 
unlike the corresponding Sanskrit word sarva as 
can be. But jo-to is contracted, according to the 
ordinary rule, ivorn. J a-uta ; and the naked root thus 
obtained, ja forms the basis of a number of Santali 
compounds signifying number, quantity, or continued 
duration. Thus ja-age and j'a-j'ug, a great number 
of times, for ever ; ja-uhilo, always ; ja-arate, to 
bring together a large quantity, to collect ; the 
adjective jak, numerous, populous, which has been 
adopted without change into low Bengali. It 
happens that a single adverb survives in Sanskrit 
which suffices to preserve this root in a form not 
liable to be mistaken. The Sanskrit ja-tti, ever, 
sometimes, with its negative na ja-tu, never, at no 
time, forms almost the sole undisguised representa- 
tive among the Indo-Aryan pronominals of a strong 
and fecund root in that primitive language from 
which the whole Indo-Germanic family in common 
with the Santali appears to have sprung. 

One of the Santali demonstrative pronouns is 


7ia-i,^^ this, which appears in a variety of compounds, 
such as na-kari, to this, until, now ; na-te, this way, 
hither ; iia-nte, here, etc. One of its derivatives is 
na-se, which never stands alone, but always as a re- 
duplicative plural, na-se na-se, some. Compare this 
with the Sanskrit indeclinable particle, nd-na, various. 
The Santali third person pronouns furnish what 
some may be inclined to consider a verification of 
one of Dr. Donaldson's conjectures. Thirty years 
ago this most ingenious of philologers enumerated 
four separate particles for the third person pronoun, 
ta, na, mt, and ni, only two of which could be dis- 
tinctly identified in the languages he had examined. 
In Santali the whole four are found side by side, 
bare of accidental wrappings, and in the very forms 
that Donaldson described. Thus, ta-i, his ; na-i}^ 
this person ; nu-a and ni-a, this thing. This may 
be only a coincidence, but it is, at any rate, a very 
curious one. 

Passing to the nouns, the Santali glossary differs 
from the Sanskrit in a far greater degree than the 
Greek and English do, and perhaps in the same 
degree that the Arabic does. In a number of roots 
expressing very simple ideas, however, a striking 
resemblance appears. Thus, to take the divisions 
of time, the most obvious of which is the separation 
of day from night. Day is the one universal pheno- 
menon in all ages and in all countries ; and the same 
root has served the Sanskrit conquerors of India, 

I'j Properly pronounced with an aspirate after the n ; thus, na- 
hai. Na-hari = na-ahari. 


the Roman conquerors of Europe, and the Saxon 
reclaimers of the New World, to express it. This 
root, div, means primarily 'light' or 'brightness;' 
but the Sanskrit likewise exhibits the remains of what 
must have been either an older form of this root, or 
more likely a distinct root, din, ' day.' Of the first 
root, div, which has been so universally adopted by 
Indo-Germanic speech, not a vestige can be found 
in Santali ; but the second, din, which has, compara- 
tively speaking, fallen out of use among the great 
brotherhood of languages, is distinctly preserved 
in Sanskrit and Santali. In both these tongues, 
however, it shows signs of old age and weakness, 
and leans on stronger words for support. Its true 
sphere is in composition, where it rivals the other 
root in Sanskrit, and overpowers all competitors in 
Santali, Thus Sanskrit root, din, a day ; Santali, 
din-kaloni, last year ; din-talatite, to spend time, to 
provide for the future ; din-hiloh, daily, continually. 
It is questionable whether din, a day, ever stands 
by itself in pure Santali ; but the above compounds 
are inherent and genuine parts of the aboriginal 
vernacular. There are several words for ' day ' in 
Santali, a common one being inaha. 

Santali, being barren of abstract terms, has no 
word for ' time ;' but it forms a number of com- 
pounds, expressing periods of time, from a root 
kdl: thus, kdl-om, next year ; din-kdl-om, last year ; 
hal-kdlom, two years ago ; mahang-kdlom, three 
years ago. Now, curiously enough, kdl-a is the 
Sanskrit word for ' time,' from the root kdl. 


To take another instance : the members of 
the body are common to all men, and the dif- 
ferent branches of a race generally express them 
by names formed from the same roots. The 
word for head comes in every language to have 
a secondary sense, expressing pre-eminence, or the 
top of anything. Thus, Sanskrit root, sir, head, 
the summit of a tree, the van of an army, etc. 
The root ^/r in Santali never stands alone, but 
it appears as the basis of a numerous group of 
words : thus, sir-oui, the neck, i.e. under the 
head, 07?z or 7.iin being the Santali pronominal of 
position ; sir-sir-aute, to quiver, to shake the head 
with rage ; sir-aritc, to persist, like our English 
idiom to be headstrong; sirah-baraJi, excellent, 
prime, especially applied to meat ; sir-hite, to thatch 
the top of a house. The Sanskrit root for the 
throat is gal, whence words for melting, eating, and 
speaking are derived. Santali forms its words for 
the throat and for eating from a different source, but 
it employs this same root gal in composition to ex- 
press speaking and melting : thus, gal-maraitte, to 
converse, to gossip; galam-galani, indistinct, gut- 
tural ; gal-aute, to slacken, as lime under the action 
of water. 

Next to the neck Is the arm ; and the Indo- 
Germanlc word for this limb, kasla, or its contracted 
form kdl, although unknown in Santali as an in- 
dependent vocable, is found in composition. Thus, 
hdt-lah, the arm-pit; hat -ante, to snatch away; 
hdt-oate, to feel about with the hands in the dark, 


to grope ; hdt-araittc, to grope with the hand in 
water, to catch fish with the hand. The Indo- 
Germanic root whence the Sanskrit garb -ha, belly, 
is formed, appears in the Santali verb gadrattte, to 
miscarry, to have an abortion. 

To conclude the comparison with a more doubt- 
ful set of resemblances. Most of the Indo-Ger- 
manic languages form their term for the human 
species from the root which appears so strongly in 
our English word man. ' Man ' primarily signifies 
the thinking animal, from the radix man, 'to think ;' 
and the same root appears in Santali as the base of 
a widely ramified system of words referring to the 
human race, and to the operations of the human 
intellect. Thus : 

Root, ma7i, to think. 





Tail, etc. 

fAvo;, spirit. 20 

Ma7t, to understand. 

Alan-ete, to think. 

f/,ifx.i)va, be 

Mann, the first man. 

Man-e, the soul. 


Mdnava, man in general. 

Mdiiiko, the first man. 
Man-o-i, man in general. 
Aldii-janam or Manoi- 

janam, born of man, 


The missionary who has most thoroughly inves- 
tigated the speech of the isolated sections of the 
Santals, does not mark these words as being bor- 
rowed from the Sanskrit ; but their resemblance to 
the corresponding words in Sanskrit is suspiciously 
close. Even were they truly aboriginal, it would 
be unsafe to build up any theory upon them. 

^^ Grundziige der Griechischen Etymologic, von Georg Curtius, 
p. 279, 2d ed. 


The foregoing examples have pointed to the exist- 
ence of common roots for very primitive ■ ideas in 
Santali and Sanskrit ; but the structural differences 
between the Inflecting and Compounding languages 
are too great and too completely unexplained, to 
permit of any attempt to follow up these indications 
to a common or even a coo-nate oriofin. 

While treating of the alphabet, we found reason- 
able ground to conjecture that the Aryan invaders 
of India had come in contact with the Santals, or a 
cognate race, in jDrimitive times, and mentioned that 
the Prakrit, a very early form of vernacular San- 
skrit, had adopted pure Santali terms. Thus, in- 
stead of employing the Aryan stambha, ' a post,' 
' a pillar,' ' a peg,' the Sanskrit population used 
an aboriginal word, klmnt-a?^ This khunt-a is an 
undisguised Santali word, the only change being in 
the terminal vowel : thus, ancient Prakrit, khu7it-a ; 
modern Santali, khunt-i, ' a post.' The identity is 
complete, even to the circumstance that in both 
words the cerebral t and ;/ are used. Bkeda, ' a 
sheep,' appears to furnish another example. It is a 
Santal word in use at the present day ; in Sanskrit 
it stands alone, and without any clear origin. The 
cerebral d, with which it is spelt, renders the proba- 
bility still greater that it is a true aboriginal word 
which the Aryan settlers borrowed from the races 
they found living in the land. Again, Sanskrit 
grammarians state that the word pota^'^ ' belly,' was 

-1 Mrichhakati, 40. Muir's Sanskrit Texts, vol. ii. p. 36. 
^- Mrichhakati, 72 and 112. Sanskrit Texts, vol. ii. p. 36. 


an aboriginal word that had crept into the Prakrit. 
'^G^, pota, spelt with a cerebral t as in Prakrit, sur- 
vives among the Santals at the present day, and in 
almost every village some corpulent man goes by 
the nickname oi potea, ' fat-belly.' 

In some cases, a word thus introduced from 
the aboriginal dialect into the spoken language of 
the victorious Aryans has a very sad story to tell. 
Take for example the Santali numeral pon-ea, or in 
composition jZ^^;^, ' four.' No vocable could be more 
distinct from the Sanskrit chatur, or the modern 
Bengali, cliari, ' four.' The lower classes in Bengal, 
however, employ a curious word signifying ' one- 
fourth less.' Thus, instead of saying two and three- 
quarters, they say a quarter less than three, and 
frequently express seventy-five as one-fourth less 
than one hundred, and seven hundred and fifty as 
one-fourth less than a thousand. The word never 
appears in Bengali as a numeral, but always in this 
odd sense of one-fourth less. It is identical, how- 
ever, with the Santali numeral ' four.' Thus : 
Bengali, poun-e, 'one-fourth less;' Santali, pon-ea, 
'four.' In very old Bengali, moreover, there was a 
word, po-ya, ' a quarter,' which still half survives in 
the vulgate of the market-place, and which gram- 
marians pretend to derive from a Sanskrit radical, 
pad, 'to go,' through pad or pada, ' a foot;' hence 
a metrical foot, the fourth part of a verse, also used 
as a technical term in Algebra to express the least 
root in an affected square. In connecting poya 
with pad, the grammarians may possibly be right ; 

VOL. I. M 


but in deriving poya directly from pad they are 
certainly wrong. The Bengali poune and poya 
are unquestionably adopted from pon-ea, the ver- 
nacular of the aborigines. At first the conquered 
tribes succeeded in introducing their more general 
term poya, a quarter, into the composite language 
which they and their Aryan masters spoke ; but 
four Sanskrit rivals were in the field,^^ all signify- 
ing a quarter, and the Sanskrit, being the stronger 
language, drove the poor aboriginal word out of 
Bengali speech, as the Aryans had driven the 
aborigines out of Bengal. Moreover, as the abo- 
riginal remnant which stayed in the open country 
were reduced to slavery, so their word for ' a fourth,' 
while degraded from the polite language, was allowed 
to survive in the mouths of hucksters, who buy and 
sell at this day by the aboriginal poya, ' quarter.' 
On the other hand, the aboriginal term for ' one- 
fourth less' found no Sanskrit synonym to oppose 
it, and so was able to hold its orround in the com- 
posite speech of the Bengali people. 

The Santals, on their side, have borrowed very 
liberally from Aryan speech. Their vocabulary is 
filled with words of unmistakeably Sanskrit origin, 
and which appear to have come, not from Bengali 
or Hindi, but through some more ancient dialect. 
We have seen that Prakrit came in contact with 
Santali and borrowed from it at a very distant date ; 

-^ (i) Chaturtha; (2) Chaturthansha ; (3) Pada, only as a term 
in mathematics or prosody ; (4) Ek-ha, contracted from Eka pada 


and it would be easy to show that Santali Is under 
similar obligations to Prakrit. Its meagre list of 
abstract terms is transferred almost without change 
from the Apabransa of the ancient Aryan settlers. 

The political unit of the Aryan race, from its 
first historical appearance in India, is the village, and 
upon village Institutions the whole social economy of 
the Hindus is based. Of the village as a political 
unit, \}i\^ grain of the Indo-Aryan tongues, no trace 
exists in genuine Santali. The aboriginal race 
goes a step further back, and rests Its system on 
the simpler political unit of a nomadic society, the 
family. The Indo-Aryan word for a household, 
kula, is not found by itself In Santali, but it subsists 
as the groundwork of every Santal community. A 
Santal village consists essentially of a single street, 
with houses on each side ; and the pathway run- 
ning between is called throughout the whole Santal 
country the kula-hi, the divider of the families. 

Those who wish to pursue the subject of Santal 
speech further, may turn to the Grammar given in 
the Appendix (H). Enough has been said in the 
foregoing pages to establish five points with regard 
to this Important section of the aboriginal hill-men 
of western Bengal. 

\st. That their vernacular is in structure distinct 
from Sanskrit and the Inflecting order of speech, and 
belongs to Schleicher's second class, the Compound- 
ing languages. 

2d. Nevertheless, that it appears to contain cer- 
tain roots expressive of very simple ideas, in com- 


mon with Sanskrit, but not derived from Sanskrit, 
in the same way as the Semitic and Aryan lan- 
guages exhibit a few identical roots, not directly 
derived from each other, but probably from a com- 
mon source."^ 

-iyd. That, at a very remote period, Sanskrit came 
in contact with Santali, or the ancient representative 
of Santali ; that Sanskrit adopted from Santali, pi'-o- 
bably, a number of aboriginal sounds with which to 
supplement its primitive meagre alphabet,^^ cer- 
tainly several words which appear unchanged in the 
Prakrit of ancient times and in the Santali of the 
present day ; that Bengali, which, roughly speak- 
ing, is to Prakrit what Prakrit was to Sanskrit, has 
gone on borrowing from Santali, while Santali has 
borrowed very largely from Aryan dialects of more 
ancient date. 

\th. That the study of Santali, along with the 
other aboriginal dialects of India, is possibly destined 
to do for the Compounding languages what the 
study of Sanskrit has done for the Inflecting lan- 
guages ; that a scientific method exists, according 
to which this study might be conducted ; that in 
Bengal and its dependencies the whole varieties of 
human speech meet, presenting peculiar facilities 
for research, and affording a basis from which a 
properly equipped philologer might sail forth and 
discover a new linguistic world. 

-^ M liner's Survey of the Three Families of Languages, p. 27, 2d 
ed. Donaldson's Maskil le-Sopher, p. 12-41. Gesenius ; Ewald. 

2-' According to Schleicher, the Sanskrit alphabet originally con- 
tained only fifteen consonants, and adopted nineteen from the aborigines. 


5///. That, as Sanskrit points to the north-west 
of the Himalayas as the starting - point of the 
I ndo- Aryans, so SantaH points to the countries 
on the north-east — the cimabida of Compounding 
speech — as the primitive home of the Indian abori- 
gines ; while Santal legends furnish hints as to 
their march through Eastern Bengal, spreading 
westwards until beaten back, before Aryan migra- 
tions, to the highlands of the lower valley. 

Of a supreme and beneficent God the Santal has 
no conception. His religion is a religion of terror 
and deprecation. Hunted and driven from country 
to country by a superior race, he cannot understand 
how a Being can be more powerful than himself, 
without wishing to harm him. Discourses upon 
the attributes of the Deity excite no emotion among 
the more isolated sections of the race, except a dis- 
position to run away and hide themselves in the 
jungle, and the only reply made to a missionary 
at the end of an eloquent description of the omni- 
potence of God, was, ' And what if that Strong One 
should eat me ?' 

But although the Santal has no God from whose 
benignity he may expect favour, there exist a mul- 
titude of demons and evil spirits, whose spite he 
endeavours by supplications to avert. So far from 
being without a religion, his rites are infinitely 
more numerous than those of the Hindu : the 
superstitious element in his nature is more on the 
alert, and his belief in the near presence of an 
unseen world more productive of practical results 


in his conduct. He knows no God who will reward 
the good ; but a host of demons are ever at hand 
to punish the wicked, to scatter diseases, to spread 
murrain among the cattle, to blight the crops, and 
only to be bribed by animal-suffering and a frequent 
outpouring of blood. 

The worship of the Santals is based upon the 
family. Each household has its own deity {p7^a- 
bongd), which it adores with unknown rites, and 
scrupulously conceals from strangers. So strict is 
the secrecy that one brother does not know what 
another brother worships, and the least allusion 
to the subject brings a suspicious cloud upon the 
mountaineer's brow, or sends him off abruptly 
at the top of his speed to the forest. So far as 
I have been able to learn, the prayers addressed 
to these family gods are to avert evil rather 
than to obtain benefits. Thus : ' May the storm 
spare my thatch;' 'may the black rot pass by my 
rice-fields ; ' 'let my wife not bear a daughter ; ' 
' may the usurer be eaten by wild beasts.' The 
head of the family on his death-bed whispers the 
name of the family god to his eldest son, and thus 
the same object of domestic worship is handed 
down from generation to generation. Unlike the 
Roman Penates — the beneficent protectors of the 
Roman household — the family god of the Santals 
represents the secret principle of evil, which no bolts 
can shut out, and which dwells an unseen but eter- 
nally malignant presence beside every hearth. In 
addition to the family god, each household worships 


the ghosts of its ancestors. The Santal, without 
any distinct conception of his own immortahty or of a 
future Hfe, cannot beHeve that the hnk between man 
and this earth is wholly dissolved by death, and ima- 
gines himself constantly surrounded by a shadowy 
world. Disembodied spirits flit disconsolately among 
the fields they once tilled, stand upon the banks of 
the mountain streams in which they fished, and 
glide in and out of the dwellings where they were 
born, grew up, and died. These ghostly crowds re- 
quire to be pacified in many ways, and the Santal 
dreads his Lares as much as he does his Penates. 

Adjoining the Santal village is a grove of their 
national tree,^*^ which they believe to be the favourite 
resort of all the family gods of the little community. 
From its silent gloom the bygone generations watch 
their children and children's children playing their 
several parts in life, not altogether with an unfriendly 
eye. Nevertheless the ghostly inhabitants of the 
grove are sharp critics, and deal out crooked limbs, 
cramps and leprosy, unless duly appeased. Several 
times a year the whole hamlet, dressed out in its 
showiest, repairs to the grove to do honour to the 
Lares Rtiraks with music and sacrifice. Men and 
women join hands, and, dancing in a large circle, 
chant songs in remembrance of the original founder 
of the community, who is venerated as the head of 
the village Pantheon. Goats, red cocks, and chickens 
are sacrificed ; and while some of the worshippers are 
told off to cook the flesh for the common festival at 

28 The Sal {Shorea Robusta, Hort. Beng. p. 42)- 


great fires, the rest separate into families, and dance 
round the particular trees which they fancy their 
domestic Lares chiefly haunt. Among the more 
superstitious tribes, it is customary for each family 
to dance round every single tree, in order that they 
may not by any chance omit the one in which their 
gods may be residing ! 

Besides the village deities of the Sal grove, the 
Santal finds gods, ghosts, or demons, requiring to 
be appeased, wherever he goes. Thus, the Abgi, 
or ghouls who eat men ; the Pargana Bonga, parish 
deities whose name is legion : both of which classes 
seem to be the tutelary divinities of ancient villages 
which have been deserted. They now wander dis- 
consolate through the Santal territory until they 
find some tree or cave to dwell in. Traces of that 
superstition, to which the Greeks have given so 
beautiful a form, survive in the Da-bonga (river 
demons), Daddi-bonga (well demons), Pakri-bonga 
(tank demons), Buru-bonga (mountain demons), 
Bir-bonga (forest gods). Distinct traces of Sabean 
rites also exist among the Santals. Chando, the 
sun-god, although he seldom receives sacrifice, is 
theoretically acknowledged as supreme. Sometimes 
they adore him as the Sim-bonga, the god who eats 
chickens, and once in four or five years a feast in 
his honour is held. The Santal religion, in fact, 
seems to consist of a mythology constructed upon 
the family basis, but rooted in a still more primitive 
system of nature-worship. 

The next step to the village, in a society orga- 


nized upon the family basis, is the tribe. Of these 
there are seven among the Santals," each of which 
claims descent from a common parent, and preserves 
its own rites. Once a year the tribe-god Abe- 
bonga is adored with great solemnity ; but as the 
children follow the tribe of their father, only male 
animals are sacrificed, and women are excluded from 
the feast which ends the ceremony. One festival 
is so like another, that a single description by an 
eye-witness will suffice : ' Old and young, male and 
female, assembled in thousands, and entered with 
great spirit and gusto into the hilarity of the occa- 
sion. The women, in their best, set off with massive 
brass ornaments, joined hands with the men, and 
danced in the open air with their heads uncovered. 
The men aimed at something more gay and gro- 
tesque in their costume ; and if all the colours of 
the rainbow were not displayed by them, certainly 
the hedgehog, the peacock, and a variety of the 
feathered tribe, had been laid under contribution 
in order to supply the young Santal beaux with 
plumes. These varied both as to length and 
beauty. While some were no more than a single 
foot in height, others were full five feet, and shot 
up like stocks of lettuce gone to seed. Nor was 
the perpendicular regarded as the only or most 
graceful position for wearing these borrowed 
feathers. They were set and hung in all direc- 
tions and inclinations, from the upright to the 

^'' The number varies in different parts of the country — twelve in 
the north, seven in the southern and central settlements. 


horizontal. Strips of red, blue, and yellow cloth, 
bound about their heads and loins, added to the 
effect. The drum and fife were accompanied by 
the human voice, and parties of twenty or thirty 
joining hands danced in circles, or more correctly, 
in semicircles. There may have been twenty-five 
or thirty of these parties in the field, and each 
with its own music in its centre, who laboured 
and danced the livelong day as well as one whole 
night. The continued heavy roar of so many 
drums, and the clamour of a multitude of human 
voices, the wild gaiety and grotesque costumes of 
the dancers, and their half-naked bodies, all com- 
bined to produce a spectacle of savage life at once 
imposing and impressive.'"^ 

What the tribe is to the family, that the race is 
to the tribe. The national god of the Santals is 
Marang Buru, the Great Mountain, who appears in 
their legends as the guardian and sponsor of their 
race ; the divinity who watched over their birth, 
provided for their earliest wants, and brought their 
first parents together in marriage. In private and 
in public, in time of tribulation and in time of 
wealth, in health and in sickness, on the natal bed 
and by the death -bed, the Great Mountain is in- 
voked with bloody offerings. He is the one reli- 
gious link that binds together the nation ; and the 
sacrifices, instead of being limited to a few animals, 
as is the case with the family gods, may be any- 
thing that grows from or moves upon the earth, 

2^ Mr. Phillips. 


Goats, sheep, bullocks, fowls, rice, fruit, flowers, 
beer, the berries from the jungle, a head of Indian 
corn from the field, or even a handful of earth ; all 
are acceptable to the Great Mountain, who is, in a 
sense lower than a Christian understands by the 
epithet, but still in a high sense, the Common Father 
of the people. It was he who divinely instituted 
worship, who has journeyed with the race from its 
primitive home, shared its defeats and flights, and 
still remains with it, the symbol of the Everlasting 
and Unchano;eable One. 

The Great Mountain forms the most perfect 
type of the household god. He was the object 
adored by the first family, then by the first com- 
munity of families or village, then by the first tribe, 
and so by degrees by the whole race. He exhibits 
the ultimate result of a religion constructed on the 
family basis — the father of gods and men in a Pan- 
theon of Lares. 

As in religions of the Aryan type, the Santal 
system has a tendency to divide the Supreme God 
into a triad, one of whom is an abstract conception, 
while the other two represent the male and female 
principles. The Great Mountain represents neither 
man nor woman, but the life-sustaining providence 
necessary for the existence of either. He has a 
brother and a sister, who are worshipped by the 
priests with libations — also with white goats and 
fowls of a particular colour upon the banks of the 
Damooda — but who occupy an inferior position to. 
the Great Mountain, and are almost unknown in 


the forest. The brother's name is Maniko, who is 
to the Santal race what Manu in the abstract is to 
the Sanskrit — to wit, the First Male. He is the 
husband as well as brother of the female deity in 
the triad, Jaher-era, the first female, and the Santals 
derive their word for irregular connections between 
the sexes from the unconsecrated espousal of their 
first parents : thus jaher-ete, to take or live with a 
woman as a concubine, that is, without the sanction 
of marriage, even as Maniko took Jaher-era. 

The worship of the Great Mountain is essen- 
tially a worship of blood. If the sacrificer cannot 
afford an animal, it is with a red flower or a red fruit 
that he approaches the divinity. When the English 
first obtained possession of the Beerbhoom moun- 
tains, human sacrifices were common, and a regular 
trade was carried on to supply the victims. If they 
are practised now, it is in the depths of the jungle, 
and with that impenetrable secrecy which enabled 
the Santals to sacrifice bullocks to the same god in 
the days of the Hindu rajahs. The Santal baffles 
the curious with indirect answers ; and the most that 
can be got out of him is, ' How can we sacrifice men ? 
In these days men are dear; who could pay their 
price ?' 

There can be little doubt that this sanguinary 
aboriginal deity is the Rudra of ancient Sanskrit 
literature, and the Siva of the mixed Hindu popu- 
lation which now occupies the plains,^^ The wor- 
ship of both is in so many respects alike, that the 

^'•* Original Sanskrit Texts, ii. 437. 


less observant sort of travellers generally identify 
them ; and one of the missionaries who has laboured 
for some time among the hill-men, and whose reports 
form part of the materials on which this chapter is 
based, habitually denotes the blood-loving god of the 
Santals, Siva or Mahadeva. There are indications 
in the Veda, held to be more or less distinct by 
different scholars, of the struggle of the aboriginal 
deity for admission into the Aryan Olympus, and 
indeed a faint tradition survives of his first entrance 
into that august convention. ' The gods went to 
heaven,' says an ancient text ; ' they asked Rudra 
(Siva), " Who art thou ?" '^'^ The stranger declares 
that he is the one supreme god, which indeed he 
was among the aborigines ; and as the Romans 
identified their Etruscan deities with those of 
Greece, so Rudra (Siva) took his seat in the 
assembly of Aryan gods, not as a new-comer, but 
as another form of Agni, one of the most ancient 
of the Indo-Germanic divinities. This identifica- 
tion, however, was not accomplished all at once ; so 
that while the Aryan priests of one part of the 
conquered country chanted, ' Reverence to the 
Rudra, who is in Agni, who is in the waters, who 
has entered the plants and bushes, who has formed 
these worlds ;'^^ the Aryan priests of another part, 
where the identification had not completely taken 
place, adored Rudra and Agni as distinct gods.^"^ 

^^ Original Sanskrit Texts, iv. 298. 
"^ Atharva Veda, vii. 87, i. 
^- Id. viii. 5-10; Texts, iv. 


The early Sanskrit theologians distinctly compre- 
hended this, and stated very truly, that among dif- 
ferent nations in India the Supreme God passed 
by different names, but that this god was to be 
understood to be the same as the original Sanskrit 
deity Agni. ' Agni is a god,' says an ancient text. 
* These are his names : Sarva, as the Eastern people 
call him ; Bhava, as the Bahikas (call him) ; Pasu- 
nampati (Lord of Beasts), Rudra, and Agni. All 
these names except Agni are ungentle,' probably 
meaning that they represented the god in his san- 
guinary form, as worshipped by the aborigines. 
'Agni is his gentlest appellation;' probably mean- 
ing that it represents the god in the beneficent 
character in which he was known to the Aryan 

Without accepting Signor Gorresio's views of 
the Hametic origin of the aborigines, I think he 
has very well expressed the process by which the 
aboriginal deity entered the Sanskrit Pantheon. 
' It appears to me that in this fact,' that is the 
interruption of Daxa's sacrifice, ' the struggle of 
the ancient religions of India is represented under 
a mythical veil. Siva — a deity, as I believe, of 
the Gush or Hametic tribes, which preceded on 
the soil of India the Aryan or Indo-Sanskrit race 
— wished to have part in the worship of the con- 
querors, and ill their sacrifices, from which he was 
excluded ; and by disturbing their rites, and by a 
display of violence at their sacrifices, he succeeded 

^^ Satapatha Brahmanam, i. 7, 3, 8. Texts, iv. 


in being admitted to partake in them.'^^ In another 
place Signor Gorresio speaks of Siva as the deity 
' who entered into the Indo-Sanskrit Olympus by 
one of those religious syncretisms of which traces 
are so frequently to be found in the ancient systems 
of worship.' 

The Siva of the present day has his most 
favoured abodes among those solemn phenomena 
of nature, of which the god of the Santals, the 
Great Mountain, is the type. As before mentioned, 
thousands of Hindus annually resort to his temple 
among the Western Highlands of Beerbhoom ; and 
a curious proof of the identity of Siva with the 
aboriginal deity is, that the shrine traces its origin 
to a Santal, and is called by the name of a Santal 
to this day. The hills among which it is built were 
regarded during ages with peculiar veneration by 
the aboriginal tribes ; and notwithstanding that the 
Brahmans have now completely ousted them from 
the temple, and called the geiims loci by a Hindu 
name, the feeling is still so strong as to make a 
learned missionary question whether these moun- 
tains are not the cunabula of the Santal race. The 
Brahmans who minister at the holy place indignantly 
deny the connection of the Siva whom they worship 
with the national god of the aborigines by whom 
they are surrounded, and try to rebut the lasting 
testimony which the very name of their temple 
gives against them by an improbable fable. 

In the old time, they say, a band of Brahmans 

^^ Remarks on Ramayana, ix. 291, note 35. Texts, iv. 349. 


settled on the banks of the beautiful highland lake 
beside which the Holy City stands. Around them 
there was nothing but the forest and mountains, 
in which dwelt the black races. The Brahmans 
placed the symbol of their god Siva near the lake, 
and did sacrifice to It ; but the black tribes would 
not sacrifice to it, but came, as before, to the three 
great stones ^^ which their fathers had worshipped, 
and which are to be seen at the western entrance 
of the Holy City to this day. The Brahmans, 
moreover, ploughed the land, and brought water 
from the lake to nourish the soil ; but the hill-men 
hunted and fished as of old, or tended their herds, 
while their women tilled little patches of Indian 
corn. But in process of time the Brahmans, finding 
the land good, became slothful, giving themselves 
up to lust, and seldom calling on their god Siva. 
This the black tribes, who came to worship the 
great stones, saw and wondered at more and more, 
till at last one of them, by name Byju, a man of a 
mighty arm, and rich in all sorts of cattle, became 
wroth at the lies and wantonness of the Brahmans, 
and vowed he would beat the symbol of their god 
Siva with his club every day before touching food. 

^^ ' Three huge monoHths of contorted gneiss rock, of great beauty. 
Two are vertical, and the third is laid upon the heads of the two 
uprights as a horizontal beam. These massive stones are twelve 
feet in length, each weighing upwards of seven tons. They are 
quadrilateral, each face being two feet six inches, or ten feet round 
each stone. The horizontal beam is retained in its place by mortise 
and tenon. By whom or when these ponderous stones were erected, 
no one knows.' — Revenue Survey Report by Captain W. S. Sherwill, 
p. 6. 4to, Calcutta. 


This he did ; but one morning his cows strayed 
into the forest, and after seeking them all day, he 
came home hungry and weary, and having hastily 
bathed in the lake, sat down to his supper. Just as 
he stretched out his hand to take the food, he called 
to mind his vow ; and, worn out as he was, he got 
up, limped painfully to the Brahman's idol on the 
margin of the lake, and beat it with his club. Then 
suddenly a splendid form, sparkling with jewels, 
rose from the waters, and said : ' Behold the man 
who forgets his hunger and his weariness to beat 
me, while my priests sleep with their concubines 
at home, and neither give me to eat nor to drink. 
Let him ask of me what he will, and it shall be 
given.' Byju answered, ' I am strong of arm and 
rich in cattle. I am a leader of my people ; what 
want I more ? Thou art called Natli (Lord) ; let 
me too be called Lord, and let thy temple go by 
my name.' ' Amen,' replied the deity ; ' henceforth 
thou art not Byju, but Byjnath, and my temple 
shall be called by thy name.' 

So close is the resemblance between the Great 
Mountain of the Santals and the Siva of the mixed 
Hindu population, that several natives, without any 
previous study of the question, and judging only 
from the attributes and visible worship, translated 
the Santal name for their god as ' the Mahadeva 
{i.e. Siva) of the Hindus.' 

Li a preceding chapter I have stated that the 
religion of the present mixed Hindu population 
bears witness to the influence of the aboriginal 

VOL. I. N 


element. I have now reviewed the religion of the 
aborigines as practised among the mountaineers 
of Beerbhoom, and I think it may safely be con- 
cluded that the Hindus have borrowed their house- 
hold god^*^ and its secret rites from the primitive 
races whom they enslaved ; that they have borrowed 
their villaee eods,^^ with the orhosts and demons that 
haunt so many trees ; and finally, that they have 
borrowed the sanguinary deity (Siva) who is now 
universally adored by the lower orders throughout 
Bengal. Among the Hindus these various super- 
stitions are isolated, scattered, unconnected with 
each other ; among the Santals they stand forth as 
the natural, inevitable gradations in the mythology 
of a race which bases its worship, as it bases its 
whole social organization, on the family, the political 
unit of patriarchal times. 

Mysteriously connected with the worship of Siva 
is Buddhism. How the monotheistic element in 
Sanskrit faith revolted against the material and poly- 
theistic tendency, Professor Miiller's charming works 
have made familiar to the general reader. But the 
subsequent fate of the reformation, how it was ex- 
tinguished after no long interval in the centres of 
Brahmanism, and fled to the north, the east, and 
the south, shedding new light among the lapsed 
races of India, and ultimately reaching the confines 
of the Asiatic world, are to this day matters of 
recondite scholarship. Driven forth from the San- 
skrit kingdom of Oudh, Buddhism conquered for 

^^ The Shal-gram. 37 -pj^g Gram-devatas. 


itself the mountains and valleys of the Lower Pro- 
vinces ; won the hearts of their semi -aboriginal 
population ; and founded shrines or holy cities in 
every district, from Sarnath,^^ beyond the northern 
boundary of Bengal Proper, to Jaggarnath, which 
is washed by the ocean on the extreme south. It 
consolidated scattered tribes into a powerful con- 
federacy, under a religious dynasty ^^ which waged 
not unsuccessful war upon the kingdom whence the 
reformation had been expelled, and which, in the 
ruins of Gour, has left monuments of its greatness 
that neither time nor the change in the course of 
the Ganges can efface. 

Buddhist relics abound in every one of the 
western districts of Lower Bengal ; and wherever 
they are most numerous, there the worship of Siva 
has at present the strongest hold on the people. 
It is curious to note, moreover, that many of the 
Buddhist figures in Lower Bengal have flat or 
irregular noses and thick lips, such as are never 
seen among the Sanskrit-speaking races, but which 
precisely correspond with the Sanskrit accounts of 
the aborigines, and which at this day are the most 
marked features in the physiognomy of the Santals 
of Beerbhoom as contrasted with the Brahman of 
the plains. The artists who cut these statues, now 
half-buried in the ground, were aborigines ; the 
men and women from whom they took their idea 
of the human face were aborigines : they could only 

^* Near the modern Benares. 

^^ The Pal Rajahs, who succeeded Gajanta. 


have been objects of veneration in communities in 
which the aboriginal element predominated ; and 
when the next wave of Aryans flooded Lower 
Bengal, these flat-nosed, thick-lipped statues were 
treated with the same contempt as the aboriginal 
races whose effigies they were. 

The legends of the ancient Sarnath distinctly 
preserve the struggle between the two religions. 
First the seat of aboriginal or Siva worship, then 
converted to Buddhism by the king of Lower 
Bengal, finally reconquered to Hinduism by the 
Canouj Brahmans, and reduced to ashes, its history 
and even its name have become matters of specula- 
tion among native scholars, who find, with surprise, 
a plain allusion to Siva-worship in the very name 
of the northern Buddhist metropolis.*'^ Close by 
the Holy City, among the mountains of Beerbhoom, 
the only spot in those secluded highlands where 
Siva-worship exists, we find unmistakeable Buddhist 
remains. The same close connection between Bud- 
dhism and Siva-worship appears in Southern Indla.'*^ 
Everywhere the Buddhist religion was overpowered, 
and immediately succeeded by the worship of the 
sanguinary aboriginal deity who in ancient times 
fought his way into the Aryan Olympus. 

The philosophical relation of Siva -worship to 
Buddhism is beyond the humble scope of a rural 
annalist ; but no one can study the minute local 

^^ A recent account of Sarnath, by a Hindu antiquary, appeared 
in the EnglisJunaii's Weekly Journal, vol. iv. No. 29. 4to, Calcutta. 
■'^ Major Syke's Report on the Land Tenures of the Dekkan. 


history of Bengal Proper without finding memorials 
of the process by which the actual change was 
effected. The Buddhist fugitives from persecution 
in the north appear as kings in the Lower Valley, 
in part converting, in part conquering, the aboriginal 
tribes. Indeed, there are indications that the 
Buddhists owed their easy victories, in no small 
degree, to the circumstance that they presented 
themselves in Lower Bengal as the deliverers of 
the classes of aboriginal descent from the tyranny 
and praedial slavery which the preceding waves of 
Aryans had imposed. The religion of the earlier 
Aryan invaders was a positive one, favouring social 
inequalities, and interfering with the practical life 
of the people : the Buddhist religion was a negative 
one, declaring equality between man and man, and 
secluding itself as much as possible from practical 
life. Buddhism, therefore, was a great gain to the 
semi-aboriginal masses of Lower Bengal, and quickly 
obtained their allegiance. But a negative religion, 
though it may be the creed of a dynasty, is never 
the religion of a people. Buddhism quickly lost its 
active principle in Lower Bengal, and retreated to 
monasteries or to secluded religious villages among 
the mountains, such as the Holy City in Beer- 
bhoom ; content with having placed a Buddhist 
dynasty on the throne, and with having spread a 
thin crust of monotheism over the surface of society. 
The common people were also satisfied ; they were 
let alone. They naturally returned to the bloody 
worship of their fathers, which the preceding Aryans 


had tried to trample out, and Lower Bengal soon 
exhibited the inevitable consequence of forcing a 
higher degree of spiritualism upon a nation than 
it is able to bear ; to wit, an untold depth of super- 
stition varnished over with a fair, deceitful gloss. 
Such a state of affairs could not be permanent : as 
Buddhism retired from public life to its monastic soli- 
tudes, Brahmanism crept back into its place, and at 
last drove it forth altogether. But of Brahmanism 
there are always two sides, the spiritual and the 
idolatrous ; the former represented by the merciful 
worship of Vishnu, the latter by the bloody rites 
of Siva, the aboriginal Rudra. Brahmanism had 
learned wisdom in disgrace ; it had learned that 
nowhere, not even in Bengal, can a dynasty be 
lasting which sets its face against the people. In- 
stead, therefore, of again introducing their old 
esoteric religion, with its sublime dogmas and un- 
bloody sacrifices of fruits, milk, and oil, the Brahmans 
threw themselves upon the people, and preached 
the popular side of their creed ; with the popular 
deity Siva or Rudra at its head, to be worshipped 
according to the popular bloody rites. This was 
precisely the religion for the semi-aboriginal popu- 
lation of Lower Bengal. The mass of superstition 
that had always existed, and still everywhere exists, 
in Buddhist countries, upheaved, splintering into a 
thousand fragments the thin crust of monotheism 
that had concealed it. From that period modern 
Hinduism dates, with its top reaching even to the 
heavens, and its feet descending into the lowest 


depths of man's depraved heart. Only in Lower 
Bengal is its baser form a homogeneous and strictly 
national religion ; for only in Lower Bengal did the 
Brahmans, deliberately rejecting the spiritual side 
of the Sanskrit faith, identify themselves with the 
semi-aboriginal superstitions of the masses. Go 
where he chooses, the Hindu of the Lower Valley 
is known by his gross materialism and bloody rites. 
Native scholars, who look only to the facts without 
troubling themselves with the reasons, are astonished 
that the Lower Provinces, the refuge of monotheism 
a thousand years ago, should now be the focus of 
idolatry. ' Bengal,' says an eminent antiquarian, 
himself a native of the Southern Valley, ' long in- 
fluenced by Buddhism, has lapsed into Brahmanism 
with a vengeance. The Bengali carries idolatry 
wherever he goes. Alexander left cities to mark 
the track of his conquests ; the Bengali leaves idols 
to mark the tide of his peregrinations. It is English 
enterprise to set up schools and found hospitals ; it is 
Bengali enterprise to erect temples and put up idols. 
The Englishman teaches the Bengali to bridge rivers 
and open railroads; the Bengali teaches hook-swing- 
inof to the SantaV^ and idol-making- to the north- 
country Hindu. The Bengali who set up the image 
of Durga' (the wife of the aboriginal deity Siva) * at 
Cawnpore, is said to have brought artisans from Cal- 
cutta, because in the north country they knew not how 
to make an idol riding upon a lion with ten arms.''*'^ 

^"^ The Charrak-puja, now made a criminal offence. 

*3 EngUshmaii's Weekly Journal, vol. iv. No. 32. 4to, Calcutta. 


Caste is unknown among the Santals, Each of 
the seven children of our first parents founded a 
tribe ; and, generally speaking, where the Santals 
are free from Hinduizing influences, the number of 
tribes remains unaltered to this day. The de- 
scendants of the first-born son are the Nij-kasda- 
had ; of the second-born, Nij-murmu-had ; of the 
third-born, Nij-saran-had ; of the fourth-born, Nij- 
hasdi-had ; of the fifth-born, Nij-marudi-had, whom 
the first parents appointed to offer sacrifice to the 
Great Mountain ; of the sixth-born, Nij-kesku-had ; 
of the seventh-born, Nij-tadu-had. The prefix Nij 
appears to signify 'the son of,' like ' Mac' or ' Fitz,' 
and is dropped in ordinary conversation. Each of 
these tribes is complete in itself, furnished with its 
own leaders, and producing classes ; but two of the 
tribes have more especially devoted themselves to 
religion, and furnish a large majority of the priests. 
One of these represents the state religion, founded 
on the family basis, and administered by the de- 
scendants of the fifth son, the original family priest. 
Many of this tribe enjoy little grants of rent-free 
land in return for religious services at public festivals 
in the grove, where the gods of the hamlet dwell 
together. In some places, particularly In the north, 
the descendants of the second son (Nij-murmu-had) 
are held to make better priests than those of the 
fifth ; but It is noticeable that they rarely receive 
grants of land and have to support themselves by 
their own labour or the liberality of their devotees. 
They are for the most part prophets, diviners, and 


officiating Levites of forest or other shrines, repre- 
senting demon-worship ; and in only a few places 
do they take the place of the fifth tribe, as the 
hierarchy of the national system of religion founded 
on the family. In the north, where Hinduism has 
made the greatest inroads, five tribes have been 
added, — arising, I believe, from the illegitimate de- 
scendants of Santal women by Aryan fathers. They 
are to the pure Santals what the mixed castes are 
to the pure Aryans ; but the superior intelligence, 
derived from their fathers, has enabled them to 
obtain a much better position among their abori- 
ginal kinsmen than the mixed castes have ever 
acquired among the Aryan conquerors of the plains. 
The subject of these additional five tribes, however, 
is involved in much obscurity, and this view of their 
origin is rather a conjecture than a deduction from 
known facts. In the north, the Santals have gone 
so near to Hinduism as to assign particular occupa- 
tions to four of the tribes. Thus the Kesku-had 
are the kings ; the Murmu-had are the priests ; the 
Saran-had are the soldiers ; the Marudi-had are the 
farmers : evidently a clumsy imitation of the fourfold 
Hindu division into soldiers, priests, traders, and 
artisans. Besides these four tribes, the northern 
Santals have eight others, to whom no particular 
occupation is assigned. 

Notwithstanding such local affectations of caste, 
the cruel inequalities which divide man from man 
among the Hindus of the plain have never pene- 
trated the hamlets of the mountaineers. The whole 


village has its joys and sorrows in common. It 
works together, hunts together, worships together, 
and on festivals eats together. Instead of each tribe 
having to marry within itself, as in the case of the 
Hindu castes, no man is allowed to take a wife of 
his own clan. The first three castes of the Hindus 
are in reality based upon difference of occupation or 
social rank ; and the marriage of a knight's daughter 
with the son of a tradesman, used to be as abhorrent 
to the Aryan race in feudal Europe, as it ever was 
to the same race in agricultural India. The fourth 
caste of the Hindus were the conquered black races, 
and we know how New Orleans society would have 
regarded the nuptials of a planter's daughter with a 
negro slave. The classification of the Santals de- 
pended not upon social rank or occupation, but upon 
the family basis. Every Santal feels he is the kins- 
man of the whole race ; and the only difference he 
makes between his own clan and the others is, that 
he thinks the relationship between himself and his 
clanswomen too close to permit of intermarriage. 
The children belong to the father's clan, and the 
daughters, upon marriage, give up their ancient 
clan and its gods for those of their husbands. 

So strong is the family feeling, that expulsion 
from the clan is the only form of banishment known. 
Like the Roman aqttcE et ignis interdictio, to which it 
bears a strange resemblance, it amounts to loss of 
civil rites, for other clans will not receive the out- 
cast ; and the idea of the ties of kindred being 
destroyed between the individual and the race, is 


insupportable to the Santal. The terrors of the 
punishment, however, are decreased by its fre- 
quency, and a door is always left open for the 
return of the offender to the common family. He 
must first be publicly reconciled with the people ; 
and the difficulty of effecting the reconcilation de- 
pends upon the view which public opinion takes of 
his crime. For minor offences, twenty gallons of 
beer,^* and about ten shillings to buy the materials 
of a feast for his clansmen, suffice ; in more heinous 
cases, the difficulty of reconciliation is so great, that 
the unfortunate man yields to his destiny, and, tak- 
ing with him his bow and arrows, departs into the 
jungle, whence he never returns. A woman, once 
fallen, cannot regain her position. 

The six great ceremonies in a Santal's history 
are : admission into the family ; admission into the 
tribe ; admission into the race ; union of his own 
tribe with another by marriage ; formal dismission 
from the living race by incremation ; lastly, re-union 
with the departed fathers. The admission into the 
family, like the worship of the household god, is a 
secret rite, and differs in different localities. One 
form of it consists in the father repeating to himself 
the name of the ancestral deity, and putting his 
hand on the child's head as an acknowledgment 
that it is his own. The admission into the tribe is 
a more public ceremony, called iiartka, and takes 
place three days after the birth, if a girl ; five days 
after the birth, if a boy. By this time the Santal 

*■* Rice beer, worth from id. to 3d. a gallon, according to its strength. 


mother is able to cro about her work asfain. Great 
pots of beer are brewed, the clansmen on both sides 
of the house are invited ; but as the Santals hold a 
family in which a birth has taken place unclean, 
none will eat or drink with it until the ceremonies 
of purification have been performed. The child's 
head is shaved. The clansmen stand round and 
sip water mingled with a bitter vegetable juice,*^ in 
token of their commiseration for their temporarily- 
outcast relatives. The father then solemnly names 
the child, if a boy, after his own father; if a girl, 
after his wife's mother ; and the midwife, immedi- 
ately on hearing the word, takes rice and water, 
and, going round the circle of relatives, fillips a 
few drops on the breast of each visitor, calling out 
the child's name. The family, including the new- 
born babe, is then held to be re-admitted into the 
clan ; and the ceremony ends with the kinsmen of 
both father and mother sitting down to huge earthen 
pitchers of beer, to which a feast in rich households 
is added. 

The admission into the race takes place about 
the fifth year. Beer is brewed ; the friends of the 
family, whatever may be their clan, are invited ; and 
the child is marked on his right arm with the San- 
tal spots. The number of these spots varies, but 
it is always an uneven one ; and any man dying 
without them becomes an object for the wrath of 
the Santal gods. He lies age after age, with snakes 
burrowing in his breast, an outcast from the ghostly 

^5 Nim. 


world, amid which the Santal Hves, and moves, and 
has his being. 

The union of his own tribe with another by 
marriage^" is the most important ceremony in a 
Santal's Hfe. It takes place later than among the 
Hindus, and the Santal speaks with abhorrence of 
the practice of bringing together mere children, 
years before the espousals can be consummated. 
As a rule, a Santal lad marries about his sixteenth 
or seventeenth year ; girls are generally provided 
for at fifteen. These ages may appear premature 
to nations with whom the luxuries of civilisation 
have become necessaries of life ; but in the tropical 
forest, a youth of sixteen or seventeen is as able 
to provide for a family as ever he will be ; and a 
leaf hut, with a few earthen or brazen pots, is all 
the establishment a Santal young lady expects. 
One generation after another settles down early to 
wedded life ; nor is a custom to be blamed which 
renders unchastity almost unknown, and provides a 
numerous progeny of grandchildren to care for the 
aged. I have never, except in the famine of 1866, 
met a beofo-ar in a Santal village. 

As the Santals have attained an aee of discre- 
tion before they marry, a freedom of selection is 
allowed to them, wholly unknown among the Hin- 
dus. The formal proceedings begin by the lad's 
father sending a wedding messenger {rai bari) to 
the girl's father, who receives the proffer in silence, 
and, after advising with his wife, replies : ' Let the 

*« Chhatiar. 


youth and the maiden meet, then these things may 
be talked over.' An interview is arranged at a 
neighbouring fair ; and at the close of the day, if the 
young people are pleased with each other, the lad's 
father buys a trifling present for the girl, who pro- 
strates herself before Wm as a public acknowledg- 
ment that she is willing to be his daughter-in-law. 
The girl's clansmen then visit the lad's village, 
where the future husband salutes them with a kiss, 
taking each of them on his knees for a minute,"^^ and 
giving the brethren a small present of money, but 
to the girl's father a turban and the customary cot- 
ton dress. The lad's clansmen afterwards visit the 
house of the eirl's father. The bride-elect salutes 
them, takes each on her knee,*^ and makes a small 
present precisely as the lad had done to her people. 
The clans by these ceremonies having formally 
declared their amity and goodwill, the lad's father 
sends a present of an uneven number of rupees 
by the wedding messenger to the girl's parents, the 
acceptance of which legally transfers the girl to the 
new clan. Preparations for the actual wedding 
then begin. The bride's clansmen erect a tem- 
porary shed in their village, and soon afterwards the 
bridegroom, attended by his kindred, comes into 
the little town, and all are solemnly received in the 
single street [ktcl-aki, literally the Divider of the 
Families) by the two village beadles, whose duty 

•*" The Rev. E. L. Puscley, of the Rajinahal country, is my autho- 
rity for this curious part of the ceremony. 
^8 Id. 


It is to see after the youth of the hamlet. The 
groomsmen then proceed to the shed, in which 
they erect a bough of the wine-giving tree,*^ and 
place under it a pot of rice, husked by the girl's 
family in a particular manner, steeped in water and 
coloured with vermilion. The purification of the 
bridegroom follows. He is bathed, his hair dressed, 
the old clothes are taken from him, and new ones 
stained with vermilion put on by the girl's clans- 
women. On the fifth day, the bridegroom, arrayed 
in his new clothes, is carried on men's shoulders to 
the bride's house. Five of his groomsmen place 
the bride in a large basket, and bring forth her 
younger brother, who receives the bridegroom as 
her proxy. Salutations having been interchanged, 
the bride is carried out in her basket : the young 
couple sprinkle one another with water from the 
opposite sides of a cloth that has been put between 
them ; the bridegroom calls out the name of a god, 
and the people tell him to lift the girl out of the 
basket, for she is his wife. The clansmen then 
unite the clothes of the bride and bridegroom, after 
which the girl's clanswomen bring burning charcoal, 
pound it with the household pestle'^^ in token of the 
dissolution of old family ties, and extinguish it with 
water to signify the final separation of the bride 
from her clan. 

Nothing can be more picturesque than the torch- 
light procession home. The party first assemble at 
the leafy shed before mentioned, to inspect the pot 

« The Michiia. so The tok, a stick of the okli tree. 


of rice and vermilion-coloured water. If the grain 
has germinated abundantly, there will be many 
children; if sparingly, there will be few ; and if 
the seeds, instead of germinating, have rotted, the 
marriage is an ill-omened one. The procession 
then moves forward with drums and fifes, the 
torches blazing luridly under the forest trees, and 
startling many a bird, which whirs screaming into 
the darkness. As it draws near to the bridegroom's 
village, the virgins^^ come forth about two miles 
to welcome the bride, and conduct her with song 
and music to the door of her new home. 

The Santals remain faithful to one wife. Second 
marriages are not unknown, but they seldom take 
place, except for the purpose of obtaining an heir, 
and a Santal always honours the wife of his youth 
as the head of his house. Divorce is rare, and can 
only be effected with the consent of the husband's 
clansmen. Five of the nearest relatives are called 
together, beer is brewed, and the party who desires 
the separation explains his or her wrongs. The 
relatives, after hearing the rejoinder, decide. In 
the event of the divorce being granted, the party 
seeking it solemnly tears up a leaf before the little 

The fifth great ceremony in a Santal's history is 
his formal dismission from the race. When a San- 
tal lies a-dying, the ojha, half necromancer and half 
doctor, rubs oil on a leaf to discover what witch or 
demon has ' eaten ' the sick man. As soon as the 

^^ The ///;■/ kuri. 


vital spark quits the body, the corpse is anointed 
with oil tinged with vermilion, and laid decently 
out in new white clothes upon the bed. The clans- 
men join together to buy two little brazen vessels — 
one for rice, the other for water — which they place 
upon the couch along with a few rupees, to enable 
their friend to appease the demons on the threshold 
of the shadowy world. When the funeral pile is 
ready, these presents are removed. Five clans- 
men bear out the corpse, carrying it three times 
round the pile, and then lay it gently down upon 
the top. A cock^^ is nailed through the neck by a 
wooden pin, to a corner of the pile or to a neigh- 
bouring tree. The next of kin prepares a torch of 
grass bound with thread from his own clothes, and 
after walking three times round the pile in silence, 
touches the mouth of the deceased with the brand. 
This he does with averted face. The friends and 
kindred then close in, and, all facing the south, set 
fire to the pile. When the body is nearly con- 
sumed, the clansmen extinguish the fire, and the 
nearest relative breaks off three fragments from 
the half-calcined skull, washes them in new milk 
coloured with vermilion, and places them in a small 
earthen vessel. 

Of a future life of blessedness the Santal has no 
idea. His strong natural sense of justice teaches 
him that the unrighteous and prosperous man upon 

^2 The Cock is the animal generally sacrificed by the aboriginal 
races of Ceylon in cases of mortal sickness. — Sir E. Tennent's Ceylon, 
i. 541, etc., 3d ed. 

VOL. I. ■ O 


earth will meet with retribution after death ; but his 
future life is a life of punishment for the wicked, 
without any compensating rewards for the good. 
The absence of abstract nouns renders it difficult 
to get at his real views on these subjects ; but the 
most intelligent I have met, seemed to think that 
uncharitable men and childless women were eaten 
eternally by worms and snakes, while good men 
entered into fruit-bearing trees. The common San- 
tal's ideas are much looser. He believes that ghosts 
and demons surround him, who will punish him in 
the body unless he appease them ; but who these 
ghosts may be he knows not, and after death all is 
a blank. 

One ceremony, a very beautiful one, remains — 
the re-union of the dead with the fathers; The 
next of kin, taking a bag of rice and the little 
earthen pot with the three fragments of the skull, 
starts off alone to the sacred river. Arrived at its 
bank, he places the three fragments of skull on his 
own head, and entering the stream, dips completely 
under the water, at the same time inclining forwards, 
so that the three fragments fall into the current, and 
are carried down, thus ' uniting the dead with the 

The Santals afford a striking proof of how a 
race takes its character from the country in which 
it lives. Those who have studied them only in 
the undulating southern country near the sea, call 
them a purely agricultural nation ; the missionaries 
who have preached to them in the mountainous 


jungles look upon them as a tribe of fishers and 
hunters ; in the highlands of Beerbhoom, they 
appear as a people with no particular occupation, 
living as best they can in a sterile country by 
breeding buffaloes, cultivating patches of Indian 
corn, and eking out a precarious semi-agricultural 
semi - pastoral existence by the products of the 
forest. The jungle, indeed, is their unfailing friend. 
It supplies them with everything that the lowland 
Hindus have not. Noble timber, brilliant dyes, 
gums, bees' wax, vegetable drugs, charms, charcoal, 
and the skins of wild animals — a little world of 
barbaric wealth, to be had for the taking. Through- 
out the cold weather, long lines of their buffalo carts 
— the wheels made from a single slice of Sal trunk 
— are to be seen toiling and creaking towards the 
fairs of lowland Beerbhoom. At night the Santal 
is at no loss for a tent ; he looses his buffaloes on 
the margin of some wayside tank, creeps under his 
cart, lights a fire at one end, draws up a second 
cart with its solid wheel against the other, and after 
a heavy supper, sings himself to sleep. 

As a huntsman, he is alike skilful and intrepid. 
He never stirs without his bow and arrows. The 
bow consists of a strong" mountain bamboo which 
no Hindu lowlander can bend. His arrows are of 
two kinds : heavy, sharp ones for the larger kind 
of game ; and light ones, with a broad knob at the 
point, for small birds. The difficulty of shooting 
true with the latter can only be appreciated by 
those who have tried it ; but few English sports- 


men, provided with the latest improvement in fire- 
arms, can show a better bag of small game from 
the jungle than the Santal, equipped solely with his 
rude weapon. Fowling, however, he only resorts 
to in order to meet his immediate necessities. I 
have seen a wayside encampment of Santals, after 
toiling along the road the whole day, supply them- 
selves with water-birds from the tank at which they 
drew up for the night, in less time than a Hindu 
would take to purify himself, or a Mussulman 
traveller to say his prayers. 

The tiger or leopard hunt is at once his pastime 
and his profit. If he looks to the gain, he keeps 
the existence of the animal a secret from every one, 
except the fortunate kinsman who possesses a gun, 
and stealthily watches what drinking-place the wild 
beast frequents. This ascertained, the two relatives 
take up their position in an adjoining tree, and 
patiently wait, sometimes for days, the coming of 
their prey. The long-barrelled matchlock, loaded 
with a charge of coarse, slow -burning powder, 
enough to serve for a small piece of ordnance, and 
rammed down with pebbles and scraps of iron, is 
placed in position ; the smouldering rope, which 
serves as tinder, is blown into a glow ; and if the 
unconscious animal takes a long enough draught 
for all these performances to be gone through, that 
drink is his last one. The Santal never fires on 
mere chance. The prestige of his matchlock, pos- 
sibly the only one within thirty miles, must not be 
lightly risked ; and his powder, coarse as it is, has 


to be brought from the Hindu village on the plains, 
which he dreads to approach. If the hunt be for 
pastime, the Santal prefers driving a tiger to shooting 
it. An Englishman has only to give out that he 
will beat a certain jungle, and hundreds of Santals, 
headed by their drummers and fife-players, seem to 
rise out of the ground. I have seen five hundred 
collected on two days' notice. The jungle was 
divided into circles, in the centre of each of which 
the Santals set up high wooden erections,^^ some- 
thing like pulpits, but covered with foliage, to look 
like trees, for the English hunters. The high- 
landers, armed with bows and arrows, surrounded 
the circumference in silence ; and after ascertaining 
by preconcerted cries, not to be distinguished from 
the call of wild birds, that this mancEuvre was 
accomplished, they raised a universal yell, accom- 
panied by countless drums, fifes, and cymbals. As 
they draw closer to the centre the sport becomes 
exciting, the beaters displaying the most admirable 
courage and reliance on one another whenever the 
game attempts to break, and striking down all the 
small fry they fall in with. The Englishmen on 
the erections in the middle refrain from firine at 
inferior animals, lest the report should terrify the 
greater ones, that may be behind, into breaking 
through the gradually contracting circle. As tigers 
and leopards are now scarce, it sometimes happens 
that the gentlemen in the pulpits, with their well- 

•'3 Maichans, from the same root as the Greek makhine, or our 
own iiiachine. 


appointed batteries, do not get a single shot, while 
the beaters are laden with booty, and form them- 
selves into a triumphant procession, each having a 
hare or a bird, or at least a good-sized snake, to 
show for his day's work. 

That the Santal was at no distant period an 
agriculturist, his language and festivals clearly prove. 
When driven from the open lowlands, he wrings an 
existence from the forest ; but he carries with him 
a taste for agriculture, and no mean skill in its 
details. The agriculture of the Hindu lowlanders 
has a stately language derived from the Sanskrit, 
not a word of which is to be found in Santali ; but it 
has also a humble, unwritten speech current among 
the poorer cultivators, who have adopted many of 
their terms from the aborigines. The Santal owes 
nothing of his skill in husbandry to the Aryan. 
He has crops of his own,^^ implements of his own, 
his own system of cultivation, and an abundant 
vocabulary of rural life, not one word of which he 
has borrowed from the superior race who ousted 
him from his heritage in the valley. Upon low- 
lying ground near the sea he cultivates rice as 
successfully as his Hindu neighbours, and if not 
oppressed by them, becomes a substantial man. 

^* The staple food of the Beerbhoom highlanders is Indian corn 
(Santali, janora), and three small inferior grains called janhe, gundoli, 
and iri, which I have not seen cultivated by the lowland Hindus. 
The Beerbhoom Santal looks upon rice, the universal food of the 
lowlanders, as a rare luxury ; but he successfully rears the small hardy 
barley (bajra) which is common throughout Bengal. In the southern 
country, the word janhe is used to designate a wild grass. 


As the lowland population advances, however, he 
recedes, so that few large villages and no Santal 
cities grow up. The missionaries everywhere re- 
mark the Santal's ' decided preference for the new 
and jungly parts of the country.' Rice, the most 
bountiful gift of nature to man, is the national crop 
of the Santal : his earliest traditions refer to it ; 
his language overflows with terms to express Its 
different stages ;^^ and even in the forest he never 
wholly loses his hereditary skill in raising it. Each 
period in its cultivation is marked by a festival. 
The Santal rejoices and sacrifices to his gods when 
he commits the seed to the ground (the Ero-Sim 
festival) ; when the green blade has sprouted (the 
Harlan Sim) ; when the ear has formed (the Horo) ; 
and the gathering of the rice crop forms the occasion 
of the crowning festival of the year (Sohorai).^*^ 

The Santal possesses a happy disposition, Is 
hospitable to strangers, and sociable to a fault 
among his own people. Every occasion Is seized 
upon for a feast, at which the absence of luxuries 
is compensated for by abundance of game, and 

^^ The Santal has names of his own for every stage in rice cul- 
tivation, (i.) The generic name for rice : Bengali, dhanj Santali, 
horo. (2.) The seed : Bengali, bij or bich; Santali, ita. (3.) Cut 
rice : Bengali, kata ; Santali, irj hence irate, to reap. (4.) Rice- 
straw : Bengali, bichali; Santali, bassup. (5.) Threshed rice : Ben- 
gali, viaraj Santali, en-men or ma-ennien. (6.) Husked rice : 
Bengali, chal, from the same root as the Santali chaoli, from chalnte, 
to sift. (7.) Boiled rice : Bengali, bhatj Santali, dakku. (8.) Fer- 
mented rice liquor : Bengali, mad or pachwaij Santali, handia. 
I have taken down these words as pronounced by Dhula Maji and 
Chandra Maji, two Santal constables in the Beerbhoom police. 

^'^ For a list of Santal festivals, see Appendix I. 


liquor made from fermented rice. In the southern 
country each house has its ' stranger's seat ' outside 
the door, to which the traveller, whatever be his 
creed or colour, is courteously invited as soon as 
he enters the village. The Santal has a form of 
salutation of his own. He does not abase himself 
to the ground like the rural Hindu, but gravely 
raises his hands to his forehead, and then stretches 
them out towards the stranger, till the palms touch 
each other. ^^ He keeps his respect chiefly for the 
aged among his own people ; and in dealings with 
outsiders, while courteous and hospitable, he is at 
the same time firm and free from cringing. Un- 
like the Hindu, he never thinks of making money 
by a stranger, scrupulously avoids all topics of 
business, and feels pained if payment is pressed 
upon him for the milk and fruits which his wife 
brings out. When he is at last prevailed upon to 
enter upon business matters, his dealings are off- 
hand ; he names the true price at first, which a 
lowlander never does, and politely waives all dis- 
cussion or beating down. He would much rather 
that strangers did not come to his village ; but 
when they do come, he treats them as honoured 
guests. He would in a still greater degree prefer 
to have no dealings with his guests ; but when his 
guests introduce the subject, he deals with them 
as honestly as he would with his own people. 

The village government is purely patriarchal. 
Each hamlet has an original founder (the Manjhi- 

^' Johar-ete. 


Hanan), who is regarded as the father of the com- 
munity. He receives divine honours in the sacred 
grove, and transmits his authority to his descendants. 
The head-man for the time being (Manjhi) bears 
the undisputed sway which belongs to a hereditary 
governor ; but he interferes only on great occasions, 
and leaves the details to his deputy (Paramanik). 
A missionary who has lived for some years among 
the Santals assures me that he has never seen an 
abuse of power by these authorities ; and the chance 
traveller cannot help remarking the facility with 
which he can get food, guides, means of transport, 
in short, everything, by a word from the head-man. 
As the adults of the village have their head-man 
and his deputy, so also have the children. The 
juvenile community are strictly controlled by their 
own officers (the Jog-manjhi and Jog-paramanik), 
whose superintendence continues till the youth or 
maiden enters on the responsibilities of married life. 
A watchman completes the list of village officers, 
but among the pure Santals crime and criminal 
officers are almost unknown. ^^* 

The Santal treats the female members of his 
family with respect, allows them to join in festivals, 
and only marks his superiority by finishing his 
meal before his wife begins. The Santal woman 

^'^ For some years the Santal district adjoining Beerbhoom was 
administered on what was termed the ' No-Pohce System.' The 
Commissioner (Mr. G. W. Yule) speaks highly of it in his Civil and 
Criminal Report to Government for 1858 (pp. 4, 5, and 6), and the 
assistant Commissioners who had to carry out its practical details 
were of one opinion with regard to its success. 


is modest, but frank. Ignorant of the shrinking 
squeamishness of the Hindu female, she converses 
intelligently with strangers, and performs the rites of 
hospitality to her husband's guests. Her dance is 
slow and decorous. All the women join hands, form 
themselves into an arc of a circle, and advance and 
retire towards the centre, where the musicians are 
placed, at the same time moving slightly towards 
the right, so as to complete the circle in about an 

The Santals live as much apart as possible from 
the Hindus. In some sequestered spot among the 
hills a field of paddy makes its appearance, and 
before the sportsman is aware, he comes upon a 
Santal village. The only Hindu they tolerate 
amone them is a blacksmith, one of whom is at- 
tached to each village, and whose posterity in process 
of time become naturalized Santals. These men do 
all the working in iron for the hamlet, and fashion 
the armlets and other rude jewellery in which the 
Santal matron delights. In some places a small 
community of basket-weavers, a caste which forms 
the lowest extremity of Hindu society, or rather 
occupies a neutral ground of its own between the 
acknowledged Hindus and the aborigines, is per- 
mitted to settle on the outskirts of the Santal village ; 
but these also soon become naturalized, and lose the 
diluted strain of Aryan blood they originally pos- 
sessed. The hill-men are so simple-minded, that 
dealing with them is very profitable to the acute 
lowlander, who will pay large bribes to any person 


whose Influence can secure for him a footing among 
them. Under the protection of the village head, a 
Hindu shopkeeper or usurer sometimes finds his 
way into the Santals' retreats ; and from that day, 
honesty, peace, and prosperity depart from the 

Until 1790, the Santals were the pests of the 
adjacent lowlands, and their unchecked inroads 
formed Lord Cornwallis' chief reason for assuming 
the direct administration of Beerbhoom, Every 
winter, as soon as they had gathered in the rice 
crop and celebrated their harvest-home, the whole 
nation moved down upon the plains, hunting in the 
forests and plundering the open country on the line 
of march. After three months' excellent sport they 
returned laden with booty to celebrate the Febru- 
ary festival in their own villages. The operations 
which ultimately penned in the Santals within their 
own territory have already been detailed.^^ Gradually 
they learned to be content with the chase In their own 
forests as a winter pastime instead of the maraud- 
ing expeditions upon the lowlands, and at the end 
of the century they appear in a new light — namely, 
as valuable neighbours to the lowland proprietors. 
The permanent settlement for the land-tax in 1 790 
resulted in a general extension of tillage, and the 
Santals were hired to rid the lowlands of the wild 
beasts which, since the great famine of 1769, had 
everywhere encroached upon the margin of cultiva- 
tion. By this arrangement they combined sport 

^s Ante, Chap. ii. 


with profit in a far greater degree than during 
their freebooting days, and gradually were induced 
to accept regular employment during the cold 
season on the plains. This circumstance was so 
noticeable as to find its way into the London 
papers, and from 1792 a new era in the history of 
the Santal dates. ^^ 

From that year he appears as the day-labourer 
of lowland Bengal. We have seen how the famines 
which attended the dissolution of the Mahommedan 
power destroyed the equilibrium between the popula- 
tion and the cultivable land. Whole districts had 
fallen out of tillage, and our first system, that of 
annual settlements for the land-tax which squeezed 
the industrious and improving proprietor to make 
good the default of the prodigal and idle one, 
rendered operations for reclaiming waste land on a 
large scale out of the question. But when, in 1 790, 
the British Government pledged itself not to lay any 
further tax on reclaimed lands, capital quickly found 
its way to its natural destination in an agricultural 
country — to wit, the improvement of the soil. Every 
able-bodied husbandman was welcome to as many 
acres as he could cultivate. A large surplus of 
excellent land still remained, and the Santals, 
tempted down to the plains by unprecedented wages 
or easy rents, reclaimed hundreds of rural communes 
and gave a new land tenure to Beerbhoom. In 
the northern district of Rajmahal, Santals came 

^'^ ' Every proprietor is collecting husbandmen from the hills to im- 
prove his lowlands.' — Morning Chronicle, London, 23d Oct. 1792- O.C. 


gradually further and further down the slopes ; and 
Government wisely won them into peaceful habits, 
by grants of land, along with ' exemption from 
the ordinary course of law, and from all taxes.' 
' Causes not affecting the public peace,' says an 
eye-witness in 1809, 'they settle among themselves 
by their own customs ; but they are bribed by an 
annual pension to give up such as commit violent 
outrages, such as robbery and murder ; and these are 
punished by the judge, provided an assembly of 
their countrymen finds them guilty.'*'*^ 

By these measures did the British Government 
change invasion into immigration, and utilize a race 
that had been from time immemorial the terror of 
the western border of Bengal. The same tribes 
that had turned cultivated fields into a waste during 
Mussulmans' times, were destined to bring back the 
waste into cultivated fields under English rule. 

The Santals, no longer thinned by the losses 
of the winter incursions, soon outgrew their sterile 
highlands, and about the year 1830 began to 
migrate northwards in large bodies. They found 
the northern hills inhabited by another aboriginal 
race, shorter, darker, fiercer, and more hostile to 
strangers than themselves ; speaking a language 
they did not understand, and ignorant of the arts 
of peace. It was the race which, after defying the 
Mahommedan arms for centuries, was won over in 
1780 by the truthful arid gentle policy of Augustus 

"0 Hist. Antiq., etc. of Eastern India, from the Buchanan MSS. 
ii. 82. Letters of Gurreeb Doss, with repHes, 8vo, 1794- O- C. 


Cleveland, on whose tomb the following words are 
engraved : ' Without bloodshed or the terrors of 
authority, employing only the means of concilia- 
tion, confidence, and benevolence, he attempted and 
accomplished the entire subjection of the lawless 
and savage inhabitants of the Jungle-Terry (forest 
frontier) of Rajmahal, who had long infested the 
neighbouring lands by their predatory incursions, 
inspired them with a taste of the arts of civilised 
life, and attached them to the British Government 
by a conquest over their minds — the most permanent 
as the most rational mode of dominion.'''^ 

The more civilised Santal immigrants, finding 
no rest among these wild tribes, split up into wan- 
dering bands, and would probably have relapsed 
into savage life, but for a happy stroke of policy 
in 1832. The Hindus had never ceased to regard 
the old war-like hill-men as dangerous neighbours, 
and the fertile slopes remained an uninhabited neutral 
ground. In 1832 Government determined to mark 
off once and for all the territory of the highlanders 
by a ring fence of pillars built of solid masonry. 
The Hindus immediately pushed forwards the 
margin of cultivation towards the boundary ; but 
the intervening valleys between the hills and the 
pillars remained unoccupied, the wild highlanders not 
caring, and the lowlanders not daring to till them. 
For this fertile country a population was wanted, 
and the Santals were discovered to be the very 

^'^ ' By order of the Governor-General and Council of Bengal, in 
honour of his character, and for an example to others,' 1784. 


people required. Less timid than the Hindu, they 
were perfectly able to hold their own against their 
hill neighbours ; fond of a semi-agricultural life in 
a thickly-wooded country and accustomed from 
childhood to clear jungle lands, the rich slopes 
were exactly the territory they had been long 
seeking in vain.*^^" The few hundreds who first 
settled on the land at a nominal rent found them- 
selves so well off, that they sent for their kinsmen 
from among the southern hills, and before 1838 
they had established forty villages, containing 3000 
souls. What attracted the Santal even more than 
the virgin soil and well-stocked hunting-ground, 
was the circumstance that he could there preserve 
his nationality intact. Those who settled on the 
waste lands of Beerbhoom soon came to be re- 
garded, both by the surrounding lowlanders and 
by their former highland kinsmen, as a low caste 
of Hindus. They lost their old customs, their 
religion and social institutions grounded on the 
family basis, with the equality between man and 
man which those institutions imply, and subsided 
into an insignificant caste of the great Hindu 
community. Indeed in the lowland village the 
Santal was regarded as a flesh-eating barbarian, 
and had to take his place in the lowest rank. 
But Hindus rarely penetrated the northern hill 
country inside the ring of pillars, and the Santal 

^'^ Mr. John Petty Ward, of the Civil Service, may be considered 
the founder of this colony. The ring fence is 295 miles in circum- 
ference, containing 866 square miles of highland and 500 of lowland 
territory. Of the latter, 254 square miles had been reclaimed in 1851. 


has there preserved his nationahty to this day. 
The enclosure, therefore, became the favourite 
colony for the constantly overflowing Santals, and in 
1847 — less than twenty-five years from the time Mr. 
Ward erected the pillars — fifteen hundred Santal 
villages and townships, containing a population of 
about a hundred thousand souls, had sprung up 
within the ring. According to recent statistics, 
they now considerably exceed 200,000. 

The Santal was destined not only to restore 
the equilibrium between the population and the 
cultivable land in the western lowlands, but also 
to become the means of rendering British enter- 
prise possible throughout the whole of Bengal. 
During the past two generations, every Hindu, 
beine able to obtain a little farm with a homestead 
of his own, naturally declined becoming the hired 
workman of foreign employers. The division of 
the population into capitalists and day-labourers 
did not take place ; and when English capital 
sought investments in Bengal, it found the second 
element of production wanting. It had therefore, 
adapting itself to the condition of the country, to 
bribe the agriculturists to labour by means of ad- 
vances, — a system unprofitable in itself, and apt to 
lead to great abuses. In process of time, moreover, 
the chief product of English enterprise — indigo — 
became an unpopular crop with the husbandman ; 
and in some places the planter found that, in order 
to cultivate it, he must first get the whole surround- 
ing population into his power by loans, or by pur- 


chasing the land they tilled. During a quarter of 
a century, a large proportion of the indigo crop of 
Bengal was produced under pressure, not the less 
irksome because the husbandman had voluntarily 
subjected himself to it. From this unsatisfactory 
state of things the hill-men of the west afforded 
the means of escape. About 1835 Santals and 
kindred aboriginal tribes moved down in little 
bands towards the east, willing to work at anything 
that would yield them a living, but preferring agri- 
cultural employment where they could get it. In 
Western Bengal the hills and arid laterite clearly 
fix the limits of cultivation, and these limits had 
been reached. In the eastern districts the exube- 
rant alluvial soil yet awaited the husbandman, and 
presently Santal villages sprang up on the margin 
of each secluded marsh and jungle. The system 
of exacting labour under pressure from the Hindu 
cultivators had always been disagreeable to most 
English gentlemen. It now became unnecessary, 
for the Santal immigrants afforded a population of 
day-labourers. Indigo-growing exactly suited the 
hill-man. It mainly consisted of agricultural opera- 
tions ; and it allowed him to work, according to his 
wont, by fits and starts, demanding that every 
sinew should be strained at certain seasons, and 
permitting of almost total idleness during others. . 

From personal observation both in the eastern 
and western districts of Lower Bengal, I am con- 
vinced that a deep, unceasing current of population 
still flows from the western highlands. Land is not 

VOL. I. P 


only more fertile, but also cheaper, in the east than 
the west. Meagre soil, requiring to be manured 
and artificially watered, and yielding only one crop 
in return, cannot be obtained in Beerbhoom at a less 
rent than nine shillings an acre. Excellent land in 
the eastern districts, yielding two crops a-year for 
the trouble of turning up the soil, could, until very 
recently, be had at seven or eight. In the latter 
districts, indeed, manuring and artificial irrigation 
are almost unknown. * It does not appear to be 
generally known,' says a Calcutta newspaper, * but 
it is indisputably the fact, that Eastern Bengal is at 
this moment being peopled by the spare population 
of the west.' In every part of Nuddea little com- 
munities of Santals, Dangars, or other hill-men, may 
be found living apart from the Hindus, and pre- 
serving their national customs in the middle of the 
lowland population. Many indigo factories in the 
eastern districts"^ have villages of these western 
highlanders. A family of them makes its appear- 
ance wherever manual labour is wanted, builds its 
leaf huts in a few days, and before the end of the 
month feels as much at home as if it were still 
among the mountains. Patient of labour, at home 
with nature, able to live on a penny a day, contented 
with roots when better food is not to be had, dark- 
skinned, a hearty but not habitually excessive toper, 
given to pig-hunting on holidays, despised by the 
Hindus, and heartily repaying their contempt, the 
hill-men of the west furnish the sinews by which 

^- The Boona-parah. 


English enterprise is carried on in Eastern Bengal. 
Many of them come from the central highlands, 
where the population is permanently just one degree 
above absolute starvation, where the extension of 
tillage is only possible after a considerable outlay 
of capital in digging tanks, where the winters are 
severe, where cutaneous diseases and every infir- 
mity common to half-starved hunting communities 
are rampant, and where the political disaffection 
which springs from a chronically hungry stomach 
is never unknown. They settle in a land where 
Nature has done her utmost to render unnecessary 
the toil of man, where good wages are always to be 
had in ready money, and where the very jungle pro- 
duces as ample a subsistence as their little cultivated 
patches at home. Every winter, after the indigo is 
packed, numbers of the labourers visit their native 
villages, and seldom return unaccompanied with a 
train of poor relations, who look forward to the 
wages of the spring sowing season as the soldiers of 
Alaric contemplated the spoils of Lombardy. 

The law of supply and demand operates in the 
long-run as effectively, although more tardily, in the 
valley of the Ganges as on the banks of the Mersey 
or the Clyde. In the western districts of Bengal 
the population have outgrown the land, and in the 
eastern they have not yet become equal to it."^ 

'^■■^ The old rates for rice land in Nuddea were one shilling and 
sixpence per acre. In a large majority of rent suits that came before 
me in 1865, when in charge of the subdivision of Kooshtea, the rent 
of fair land was under six shillings per acre ; and the highest rent 
claimed was, if I remember rightly, twelve shillings an acre for land 


Labour, therefore, can make a better bargain with 
land and capital in the east than in the west ; and 
the hill-races, uncivilised though they be, are saga- 
cious enough to find out and frequent the districts 
where they can get the highest price for the one 
marketable article that Providence has given them — 
the work of their hands. 

The Santal colony within the ring of masonry 
pillars in the north became, under the lenient treat- 
ment of the British Government, as safe and peace- 
ful as any district of Lower Bengal. Hindu mer- 
chants flocked thither every winter after harvest to 
buy up the crop, and by degrees each market-town 
throughout the settlement had its resident Hindu 
grain-dealer. The Santal was ignorant and honest ; 
the trading Hindu is keen and unscrupulous. Not 
a year passed without some successful shopkeeper 
returning from the hill-slopes to astonish his native 
town by a display of quickly-gotten wealth, and to 
buy land upon the plains. The Santal country came 
to be regarded by the less honourable orders of 

naturally irrigated, and bearing two crops a year. Such land can 
hardly be obtained in Beerbhoom. The little there is of it is used for 
mulberry cultivation, and pays from twenty-four to forty-two shillings 
an acre. That a large surplus of land exists in the eastern districts, 
is proven by the prevalence of the Utbandi system, according to 
which the husbandman enters, without any previous arrangement 
with the proprietor, on the uncultivated land, takes as many crops off 
it as he can get, and deserts it for fresh fields at the end of the year. 
The proprietor measures the land thus cultivated when the crop is 
ripe, and charges the small rent of seven shillings and sixpence per 
acre. This represents the rent not only of the year during which the 
land is cruelly overcropped, but also of the succeeding one, during 
which it will in all probability lie fallow. Since 1865 I understand 
that rents have risen in Nuddea. 


Hindus as a country where a fortune was to be 
made, no matter by what means, so that it was made 
rapidly. That the Hindus appear throughout their 
whole connection with the Santals as cheats, extor- 
tioners, and oppressors, tells neither more nor less 
disgracefully against the Hindu population in gene- 
ral, than the unscrupulous conduct of a few English 
adventurers would tell against the honour of the 
English nation. Along the skirt of the Santal 
country, from the ring-fenced colony on the north 
to the highland valleys of Beerbhoom, Hindu 
hucksters settled upon various pretences, and in a 
few years grew into men of fortune. They cheated 
the poor Santal in every transaction. The forester 
brought his jars of clarified butter for sale ; the 
Hindu measured it in vessels with false bottoms : 
the husbandman came to exchanore his rice for salt, 
oil, cloth, and gunpowder ; the Hindu used heavy 
weights in ascertaining the quantity of grain, light 
ones in weighing out the articles given in return. 
If the Santal remonstrated, he was told that salt, 
being an excisable commodity, had a set of weights 
and measures peculiar to itself The fortunes made 
by traffic in produce were augmented by usury. A 
family of new settlers required a small advance of 
grain to eke out the produce of the chase while they 
were clearing the jungle. The Hindu dealer gave 
them a few shillings' worth of rice, and seized the 
land as soon as they had cleared it and sown the 
crop. Another family, in a fit of hospitality, feasted 
away their whole harvest, and then opened an 


account at the grain-dealer's, who advanced enough 
to keep them above starvation during the rest of 
the year. From the moment the peasant touched 
the borrowed rice, he and his children were the serfs 
of the corn merchant. No matter what economy 
the family practised, no matter what effort they 
made to extricate themselves ; stint as they might, 
toil as they might, the Hindu claimed the whole 
crop, and carried on a balance to be paid out of the 
next harvest. Year after year the Santal sweated 
for his oppressor. If the victim threatened to run 
off into the jungle, the usurer instituted a suit in the 
courts, taking care that the Santal should know 
nothing of it till the decree had been obtained and 
execution taken out. Without the slightest warning, 
the poor husbandman's buffaloes, cows, and little 
homestead were sold, not omitting the brazen house- 
hold vessels which formed the sole heirloom of the 
family. Even the cheap iron ornaments, the out- 
ward tokens of female respectability among the 
Santals, were torn from the wife's wrists. Redress 
was out of the question : the court sat in the 
civil station perhaps a hundred miles off The 
English judge, engrossed with the collection of the 
revenue, had no time for the petty grievances of his 
people. The native underlings, one and all, had 
taken the pay of the oppressor : the police shared 
in the spoil. ' God is great, but He is too far off,' 
said the Santal ; and the poor cried, and there was 
none to help them. 

Of all this. Government knew nothing. A 


single English officer had been deputed to look after 
the Santals, and what one man could do he appears 
to have done. As cultivation extended he enhanced 
the land-tax, and without oppression, or raising a 
single murmur, the revenue rose under his manage- 
ment from ^^"668 in 1838 to ;^68o3 in 1854. The 
administration of justice had to be- deputed to in- 
ferior officers of the courts, Hindus who naturally 
sided with plaintiffs of their own race against the 
despised Santal. If the English superintendent 
could, with the utmost industry, get through the 
daily routine of his revenue work, he deemed him- 
self fortunate. For inquiries into the history, the 
habits, or the necessities of the people, he had 
not a moment to spare. A well-armed and only 
half-reclaimed population of sturdy aborigines was 
allowed to shoot up with an uncared-for growth ; 
and Government, so far from feeling any anxiety, 
congratulated itself upon having converted a hun- 
dred thousand wandering savages into settled agri- 
culturists. It dwelt with delight upon the annual 
returns, showing how swiftly the jungle had given 
place to ploughed land, and cited the Santal settle- 
ment as a proof of what it was the fashion of the 
day to call a cheap and practical administration. 
But the Santal colony was destined to furnish a 
terrible argument against such an administration. 
The servants of an association like the East India 
Company, which had to make its dividends out of 
the revenues, were constantly liable to the temp- 
tation of lookinof at ofovernment in the licrht of a 


mercantile undertaking, and of estimating its suc- 
cess by its profits. This temptation the Court of 
Directors resisted with a consistency most credit- 
able to our nation, but ambitious subordinates in 
India sometimes took a narrower view, for the 
benien maxim that Indian orovernors are the trus- 
tees of the Indian people, not merely of a few 
hundred English shareholders, obtained a full and 
definite recognition only when India passed under 
the British Crown. In the administration of the San- 
tal settlement, everything that cost money without 
bringing in a tangible return was avoided. Nothing 
was spent in obtaining a knowledge of the people. 
The superintendent was pre-eminently a practical 
man ; and so it fell out that, early in 1855, the most 
peaceful province in the empire became the scene 
of a protracted rebellion, without any one being 
able to give either warning or explanation. Up to 
1854 the Santal colonists within the ring-fence had 
only the choice of continuing the serf of the Hindu 
usurer, or returning to the sterile, over-populated 
country whence he had come. In 1848 three 
whole townships accepted the latter alternative, 
and, throwing up their clearings, fled in despair to 
the jungle. But the majority preferred the life 
even of a serf on the fertile lowlands, to exposing 
their women and children to the permanently half- 
starved existence of the forest, and accepted that 
mild form of praedial slavery which has been an 
immemorial institution in Bengal. Until i860 no 
penal provisions existed against it, and indeed the 



last preceding law, by regulating its incidents and 
refusing it the support of the courts, had acknow- 
ledged its existence/* Many of the Santals had 
no land or crop to pledge for their little debts. If 
a man of this class required a few shillings to bury 
his father, he went to the Hindu usurer for it; and 
having no security to offer except his manual labour 
and that of his children, he bound over himself and 
family as slaves till the loan should be repaid. 
The few pieces of silver were speedily spent on his 
father's pyre, the funeral feast was eaten, and next 
morning the unhappy household started for the 
usurer's residence, and delivered themselves into 
slavery. The master neither expected nor wished 
for the repayment of the debt, and took care, by 
working his slave every hour of the day, to leave 
him no leisure for earning a peculiunt with which 
to buy his liberty. The only inheritance he had 
to leave to his children was the debt, at first a few 
shillings, but now grown by compound interest at 
33 per cent, into many pounds. If the slave re- 
fused to give up his whole time, the master stopped 
his food ; if he worked for other people, the master 
took out legal execution against his person, and 
soon brought the ignorant creature to his knees, by 
artfully exaggerating the terrors of the jail. 

It does not appear that the masters acted with 
unnecessary cruelty. I have never heard a single 
tale of atrocities such as the American slaveholders 
are said to have practised. The Hindu is too 

"^ Act V. of 1843 (Indian Council). 


dignified to strike his dependants, and the jungle 
always remained when existence under a harsh 
master became intolerable. A mitigated serfdom 
like this is indigenous in every country where the 
people increase and the means of subsistence stand 
still. It represents the last resource of labour when 
placed by over-population completely at the mercy 
of capital. The labouring man, toil as he may, can 
earn at most a bare subsistence ; a bare subsistence 
is the least that the master can give to his slave. 
Between 1838 and 185 1 the population within 
the pillars increased from 3000 to 82,795, besides 
10,000 on the outskirts ; and the landless Santal, 
finding himself seldom worse off as a serf than as 
a free labourer, acquiesced in his fate. But in 
1854 events occurred that completely altered the 
relation of capital to labour in Bengal. Govern- 
ment had determined to give railways to India, 
and the line skirted the Santal country for two hun- 
dred miles. High embankments, heavy cuttings, 
many-arched bridges, created a demand for work- 
men such as had never been known in the history 
of India. Some years' later, twenty thousand were 
required in Beerbhoom alone ; and the number 
alonof the sections runninof throuofh or borderingf on 
the Santal territories amounted to one hundred 
thousand men,^^ or more than the whole overflow- 
ings of the Santal race during a quarter of a century. 
Instead of labour going about the northern colony 

'''^ Return of daily average of workpeople employed on the East 
Indian Railway, by Mr. George Turnbull, chief engineer. 


in fruitless search of capital, capital in unprece- 
dented quantities roamed through the Santal 
country in quest of labour. The contractors sent 
their recruiters to every fair, and in a few months 
the Santals who had taken service came back with 
their girdles full of coin, and their women covered 
with silver jewellery, 'just like the Hindus,' as 
their astonished clans-people remarked. Every man, 
woman, and child could get work, and boys of ten 
earned higher wages on the line than grown men 
had ever earned in the villao-e. It was then that 
the distinction between the slave and the freeman 
began to make itself felt. The entire free popula- 
tion who had not land of their own went forth with 
their women and children, their bows and arrows in 
their hands, and the national drum tatooing in front, 
to work for a few months on the railway, and then 
to return and buy land, and give feasts to their clans- 
men. The slaves, who were compelled to remain 
working for their masters at home, contrasted their 
own lot with that of the prosperous adventurers. 
Running away became common ; and the Hindu 
masters had recourse, in self-defence, to a much 
stricter and more vigilant system than they had ever 
before practised. The same causes that had made 
the slave eager for freedom had rendered him more 
valuable to his master, and it became clear that the 
great issue would soon have to be tried, whether 
it was possible, in the second half of the present 
century, under British laws, to keep men slaves 
when it was worth their while to be free. 


During the cold weather of 1854 and 1855 the 
Santals appeared to be in a strange, restless state. 
They had gathered in an excellent crop, and the 
influx of capital had enhanced the local price of 
agricultural produce. Nevertheless the highlanders 
continued excited and discontented. It was in vain 
that the magistrate of Beerbhoom, in reviewing the 
progress of his district during the year, reported 
everything prosperous. ' The very extensive works 
now being carried on by the railway authorities 
throughout the district,' he wrote, ' and the employ- 
ment given by them to vast numbers of the poorer 
classes, has greatly ameliorated the condition of the 
inhabitants ; and the universally abundant harvest 
has also contributed to their welfare.' '^'^ But in spite 
of high prices for their grain and high wages for their 
labour, the race swayed restlessly about. The truth 
was, that the rich Santals had determined to be no 
longer the dupes of the Hindus, who intercepted these 
high prices ; the poorer agriculturists had determined 
to be no longer their serfs, and the day-labourers had 
determined no longer to be their slaves. 

To a people in this frame of mind, leaders are 
seldom wanting. Two brothers,*^^ inhabitants of a 
village that had been oppressed beyond bearing 
by Hindu usury, stood forth as the deliverers of 
their countrymen, claimed a divine mission, and 
produced heaven-sent tokens as their credentials. 

*'" From the officiating Magistrate of Beerbhoom to the Commis- 
sioner of the Burdwan Division, dated i8th February 1855. B. J. R. 

•'^ Sidu and Khanu, natives of Bagnadihi, afterwards joined by 
their other two brothers, Chaud and Bairab. 


The god of the Santals, they said, had appeared 
to them on seven successive days : at first in the 
form of a white man in a native costume ; next as 
a flame of fire, with a knife glowing in the midst ; 
then as the perforated sHce of a Sal trunk which 
forms the wheel of the Santal's bullock cart. The 
divinity delivered to the two brothers a sacred 
book, and the sky showered down slips of paper, 
which were secretly spread throughout the whole 
Santal country. Each village received a scrap 
without a word of explanation, but with an im- 
precation, as it would avoid the wrath of the 
national god, to forward it without a moment's 
pause to the nearest hamlet. Having in this way 
raised a general expectation of some great event 
among their countrymen, the leaders hoped that 
their English governors would inquire into the 
matter, and redress their wrongs ; but their Eng- 
lish governors had no time for such inquiries. 
They next petitioned the chief authority to do 
them justice, adding obscurely, that their god had 
commanded them to wait no longfer. This officer 
knew nothing of the people or their wrongs. A 
cheap and practical administration has only time 
to look after its revenues ; the Santal administra- 
tion did this effectively ; and for the terrible retri- 
bution which our ignorance of the people brought 
upon us, the system, not any individual officer, 
must be blamed. The English superintendent col- 
lected the revenue as usual, and put aside the com- 
plaints : the Santal leaders in despair had recourse 


to the Commissioner — a high English official in 
charge of a divison of the province — and, it is 
said, plainly told him that if he would not redress 
their wrongs, they would redress them themselves.^'^ 
The Commissioner could not understand what they 
wanted : the taxes came in as usual ; the admini- 
stration continued cheap and practical as before. 
' God is great, but He is too far off,' said the San- 
tal leaders. A last resource remained. Emissaries, 
bearing the national Sal branch, were despatched to 
every mountain valley ; and the people, obedient to 
the signal, gathered together in vast masses, not 
knowing for what object, but with their expectation 
excited by the slips of paper, and carrying the in- 
variable bow and arrows in their hands. 

The brothers found that they had raised a 
storm which they could not control. A general 
order went through the encampment to move down 
upon the plains towards Calcutta, and on the 30th 
June 1855 the vast expedition set out.^^ The body- 
guard of the leaders alone amounted to 30,000 men. 

"^ I should add that I have never been able to verify this state- 
ment from official documents. 

"^ It was asserted that on this day the Santal leaders addressed 
an ultimatum to the Government, to the Commissioner of the Bhagul- 
pore Division, to the Magistrates and Collectors of Bhagulpore Dis- 
trict and Beerbhoom, and to the various police inspectors through 
whose jurisdictions their route lay. I have never discovered one of 
these curious missives ; few, if any, of them reached their destination, 
but an accurate contemporary writer, with the whole facts before him, 
gives his authority to the statement. The ultimatum is said to have 
insisted chiefly on the regulation of usury, on a new arrangement of 
the revenues, and on the expulsion, or, as some say, the massacre, 
of all Hindu extortioners in the Santal country. 


As long" as the food which they had brought from 
their villages lasted, the march was orderly ; but 
unofficered bodies of armed men roaming about, not 
very well knowing where they are going, soon be- 
came dangerous ; and with the end of their own 
stock of provisions, the necessity for plundering or 
levying benevolences commenced. The leaders 
preferred the latter, the rabble the former. On 
the 7th of July a native inspector of police heard 
of the entrance of a vast body of hill-men, with the 
two brothers at their head, into his jurisdiction ; and 
the Hindu usurers, becoming uneasy, bribed him to 
get up a false charge of burglary against the band, 
and apprehend their leaders. He went out with 
his guards, but was met half-way by an embassy 
from the Santals, with instructions to escort him 
into their camp. The two brothers ordered him to 
levy a tax of ten shillings on every Hindu family in 
his jurisdiction, for the subsistence of their followers, 
and were about to dismiss him in peace, when some 
one discovered that he had come out with the inten- 
tion of getting up a false complaint. At first he 
denied the charge, saying he was on his way to 
investigate an accidental death from snake-bite, 
but afterwards confessed the usurers had bribed 
him to get up a false case of burglary, and bring 
in their leaders bound. The two brothers said, If 
you have any proof against us, take us and bind us. 
The foolhardy inspector, presuming on the usually 
peaceable nature of the Santals, ordered his guards 
to pinion them ; but no sooner were the words out 


of his mouth, than the whole mass rushed upon him, 
and bound him and his minions. After a hurried 
trial, the chief leader Sidu slew the corrupt in- 
spector with his own hands, and the police left nine 
of their party dead in the Santal camp. 

From this day — the 7th of July — the rebellion 
dates. At the time of their setting out, they do not 
seem to have contemplated armed opposition to the 
Government. When all was over, their leaders, 
who in other respects at any rate disdained equi- 
vocation or fafsehood, solemnly declared that their 
purpose was to march down to Calcutta, in order 
to lay the petition which the local authorities had 
rejected at the feet of the Governor-General ; and 
the truth of this statement is rendered probable by 
the fact that their wives and children accompanied 
them. Indeed, the movement could not be dis- 
tinguished at first from one of their great national 
processions, headed by the customary drums and 
fifes. Want drove them to plunder, and the preci- 
pitate outrage upon the inspector of police changed 
the whole character of the expedition. The inoffen- 
sive but only half-tamed highlander had tasted 
blood, and in a moment his old savage nature 
returned. Nevertheless their proceedings retained 
a certain air of rude justice. The leaders had a 
revelation enjoining the immediate slaughter of the 
Hindu usurers, but protection to all other classes ; 
and assured the ignorant multitude that the great 
English lord in the south would sanction these pro- 
ceedings and share the plunder. 


The Anglo- Indian community is naturally liable 
to the apprehensions and hasty conclusions incident 
to a small body of settlers surrounded by an alien 
and a greatly more numerous race. To what 
such apprehensions and hasty conclusions may 
lead, when shared by the local administration, the 
recent Jamaica tragedy gave melancholy proof. 
Disaffection that would be sufficiently met by a few 
dozen policemen in England, becomes a very serious 
matter where millions of pounds' worth of property 
and many thousand lives depend upon absolutely 
unbroken order. It is not a question whether the 
disaffection has any chance of ultimate success. 
The Anglo-Indian community is perfectly aware 
that England can avenge, but it also knows that 
England may be too late to save. People who live 
in this situation are prone to exaggerate danger, as 
the Jamaica white population exaggerated it, and to 
be carried into excesses such as the Jamaica troops 
committed. With the Government rests the heavy 
responsibility of counteracting the natural tendency 
to panic on the part of the public ; and this is one, but 
only one, of many permanent causes tending to pre- 
vent the Indian Government and the Anorlo- Indian 
press from being in perfect accord. The English 
Government of India from an early period fully recog- 
nised their duty in this respect ; indeed, on some occa- 
sions it would appear that the rebound has led them 
into the opposite extreme ; the authorities having 
underrated the danger in a greater and more fatal de- 
gree than the outside community had exaggerated it. 

VOL. I. Q 


The Santal Insurrection found the Government 
strongly imbued with this spirit. A contempo- 
rary writer stated that when the blow was at last 
struck, twelve hundred troops could not be found 
within eighty miles of the rebels. ''' For a whole 
fortnight the Santals spread fire and sword through- 
out the western districts. The armed masses ceased 
to be controlled by the leaders who had set them on ; 
and before the end of July, scores of villages had been 
burned, thousands of cattle driven away, our troops 
beaten back, and several Englishmen along with two 
English ladies slain. Many a little English station 
and factory lay at the mercy of the marauders ; and 
that the atrocities of the mutiny of 1 85 7 were not anti- 
cipated in 1855, is due not to the want of opportunity, 
but to the natural mildness of the Santal, only one 
of their leaders attacking English residents unless in 
self-defence. Government at once despatched troops, 
but the rains had set in, and the rivers became im- 
passable for days together. ' One evening,' says an 
officer who played an important part in putting down 
the rebellion, ' when my regiment was at Barrack- 
pore, the colonel sent for me and ordered me to 
march next morninof with a detachment to Ranee- 
gunge, in Beerbhoom, as the hill-tribes had broken 
out. I had heard nothing of the affair before, nor 
was it, so far as I remember, talked of in military 
circles. Next morning I started at 4 a.m., and 

'^ This part of my narrative is chiefly derived from the contem- 
porary press — the Friend of India, the Englishman, the Harkaru 
and the Calcutta Review. 


reached Burdwan by train about breakfast time. 
The Commissioner (the chief civil officer of that divi- 
sion of the province) came to me and ordered me to 
push on direct for Soorie, the capital of Beerbhoom, 
as it was in instant danger of attack. We marched 
for two days and a night, the rain pouring the whole 
way, and my men without any regular food. As we 
came near to Soorie, we found panic in every village. 
The Hindus fairly lined the road, welcoming us with 
tears in their eyes, and pressing sweetmeats and 
parched rice upon my exhausted Sepoys. At Soorie 
we found things, if possible, worse. One officer 
kept his horse saddled day and night, the jail seemed 
to have been hastily fortified, and the bulk of the 
coin from the treasury was said, I know not with 
what truth, to be hid in a well.'"^ 

In this panic the Central Government declined 
to share. It could only act on the evidence be- 
fore it, and the local authorities wrote much more 
calmly than they felt. The provincial records give 
a very inadequate idea of the state of affairs. The 
character which an Indian officer dreads most is 
that of an alarmist, and as the officials on the 
spot had failed to foresee the storm, there was a 
natural tendency to underrate it when at length it 
burst. This, too, without any intention to conceal, 
or even consciousness that their reports were apt to 
mislead. In every matter of fact their accuracy is 

'^ Personal Narrative of Major Vincent Jervis ; one of the MS. 
contributions on which this chapter is based. I Jiave not been able 
officially to verify the legend of the treasure chests in the well. 


beyond question ; but in the inferences drawn from 
the facts the tendency appears. Some of them, 
only a few months before, had reported that crime 
in their jurisdiction had greatly decreased, that a new 
and more effective police had been introduced, and 
that the people had never been more contented, or 
the district as a whole so prosperous. It took 
time for men who had written in this strain in 
February, to realize that their district was the seat 
of a rebellion in July. Night attacks on houses by 
bands of from five to fifty men had always been 
common in Bengal, and it was a difficult matter to 
pronounce the exact line at which such enterprises 
cease to be civil offences and become overt insur- 
rection. A single example will suffice. ' The 
whole inquiry only tends to prove,' wrote the 
magistrate of Beerbhoom, with regard to the sack- 
ing of a Bengali hamlet, * that it w^as one of 
those occurrences common in Bengal, when the 
Dacoits were bold, adventurous, and determined, 
the Bengali a coward and helpless, and the village 
watchmen all absent from their posts.'" It is pos- 
sible that in this individual case the magistrate may 
have been right in his conjecture, but in many 
similar cases there can be no doubt that he mis- 
took rebellion for robbery. Each magistrate put off 
as long as possible the admission that his district 
was in arms against Government, and arraigned 
men who should have been hanged as rebels on 

"''^ From the officiating magistrate of Beerbhoom to the Commis- 
sioner of the Burdwan division, dated 8th Nov. 1855. B. J. R. 



charges of burglary, or ' for assembling illegally and 
riotously with offensive weapons for the purpose of 
plunder, and to commit a serious breach of the 
peace.' This farce continued for weeks in the 
courts while a tragedy was being enacted outside. 
Such pangs does it cost a civil officer to acknow- 
ledge that his people are in revolt, and that the 
authority has passed out of his hands. 

The Government therefore, judging from the 
reports before it, refused to be alarmed. It sent 
troops ; but anxious to avoid the severities of martial 
law, and following precedents afforded by disturbed 
frontier districts in the last century, placed the troops 
under the orders of the civil authorities. But in so 
doing, it overlooked the difference between a col- 
lector of Mr. Keating's school in 1788, and a col- 
lector of 1855. Mr. Keating knew nothing of 
jurisprudence ; but he selected the passes to be 
held, distributed his troops, and regulated their 
movements with consummate ability. The collector 
of 1855 was a more able lawyer, and administered 
his district with much cleaner hands, but he knew 
nothing of military tacties ; and for the duties now 
devolved upon him he had not, and never pretended 
to have, any capacity. His military dispositions 
made him ridiculous in the eyes of the soldiers sent 
to act under him, dissension reigned within the 
English camp, and the rebels plundered and mas- 
sacred at pleasure outside. 

About the 25th of July, Government finding 
that it must take severer measures, placed the re- 


duction of the rebels in the hands of an experienced 
commander/'^ with instructions that amounted to 
delivering over the disturbed districts to the mili- 
tary power. Then it relented, explained away or 
retracted its orders, and removed the independent 
authority from the general. * It was not intended,' 
ran the despatch, ' that the military should act in- 
dependently of the civil power against our own 
subjects ; but that the nature of the military opera- 
tions necessary for dispersing and capturing the 
insurgents, and for putting down the rebellion, 
should be entirely in the hands of the military 
commanders. '^^ 

Even this half-measure gave a new vigour to 
the action of the military, and for a time seemed 
likely to answer the ends proposed. Detachment 
after detachment hurried to the west, patriotic native 
landholders armed and drilled their retainers ;^^ 
English planters supplied the troops with funds on 
the march ; '"^ his Highness of Moorshedabad sent a 
splendid train of elephants, and insisted on bearing 
all their expenses;" and a Special Commissioner, 

"''^ General Lloyd. 

''* From the Secretary of the Government of Bengal to the Com- 
missioner of the Burdwan division, dated Fort-William, the 30th July 
1865. Bn. R. 

''^ Vide despatch conveying the thanks of the Government to 
Babu Bipacharan Chakarbati, a Beerbhoom landholder, dated 2d 
October 1855. B. R. R. 

''^ Letter from the Commissioner of Burdwan to the officiating 
collector of Beerbhoom, dated 27th September 1855, para. 2. B. R. R. 

"''^ From the Special Commissioner suppressing the Santal insur- 
rection, dated Berhampore, 22d August 1855. 



vested with extraordinary powers, was appointed 
for the suppression of the rebelHon. ^^ 

The details of border warfare, in which disci- 
pHned troops mow down half-armed peasants, are 
unpleasant in themselves, and afford neither glory 
to the conquerors nor lessons in the military art. 
After a lapse of thirteen years, the officers who 
reduced the Santals can hardly be brought to dwell 
minutely on the operation. ' It was not war,' one 
of them has said to me, * it was execution ; we had 
orders to go out whenever we saw the smoke of a 
village rising above the jungle. The magistrate 
used to go with us. I surrounded the village with 
my Sepoys, and the magistrate called upon the rebels 
to surrender. On one occasion the Santals, forty- 
five in number, took refuge in a mud house. The 
magistrate called on them to surrender, but the only 
reply was a shower of arrows from the half-opened 
door. I said, " Mr. Magistrate, this is no place for 
you," and went up with my Sepoys, who cut a large 
hole through the wall. I told the rebels to sur- 
render, or I should fire in. The door again half 
opened, and a volley of arrows was the answer. A 
company of Sepoys advanced, and fired through the 
hole. I once more called on the inmates to sur- 
render, while my men reloaded. Again the door 
opened, and a volley of arrows replied. Some of 
the Sepoys were wounded, the village was burning 
all round us, and I had to give the men orders to 

'■^ Another from the same to Captain R. D. Macdonald, dated the 
2 1 St August, etc. etc. 


do their work. At every volley we offered quarter ; 
and at last, as the discharge of arrows from the door 
slackened, I resolved to rush in and save some of 
them alive, if possible. When we got inside, we 
found only one old man, dabbled with blood, stand- 
ing erect among the corpses. One of my men went 
up to him, calling him to throw away his arms. 
The old man rushed upon the Sepoy, and hewed 
him down with his battle-axe.' ^^ 

' It was not war,' the commanding officer went 
on to say ; ' they did not understand yielding. As 
long as their national drums beat, the whole party 
would stand, and allow themselves to be shot down. 
Their arrows often killed our men, and so we had 
to fire on them as long as they stood. When their 
drums ceased, they would move off for about a 
quarter of a mile ; then their drums began again, 
and they calmly stood till we came up and poured 
a few volleys into them. There was not a Sepoy in 
the war who did not feel ashamed of himself. The 
prisoners were for the most part wounded men. 
They upbraided us with fighting against them. 
They always said it was with the Bengalis they were 
at war, not with the English. If a single Englishman 
had been sent to them who understood their wrongs, 
and would have redressed them, they declared there 
would have been no war. It is not true that they 
used poisoned arrows. They were the most truth- 
ful set of men I ever met ; brave to infatuation. A 
lieutenant of mine had once to shoot down seventy- 

'''^ Personal Narrative of Major Jervis. 


five men before their drums ceased, and the party 
fell back.' 

By the middle of August these energetic mea- 
sures had driven the insurgents from the plains. 
A proclamation was therefore issued, offering par- 
don to all except the leaders ; and the civil officers, 
jealous of even the partial authority given to the 
military, represented that the necessity for continuing 
that authority had ceased. ' All has been quiet,' 
wrote the Beerbhoom magistrate, * for seven weeks 
past. The villagers have returned to their homes, 
and the husbandmen are engaged in the cultivation 
of their land as usual. The Santals are nowhere 
to be found, .... having retreated to a place some 
thirty miles off, in another district.'^'' But the lull 
was only temporary, and precisely one month later 
we find the same officer reporting that ' during the 
past fortnight upwards of eighty villages have been 
plundered and burnt by the insurgents,' *^^ the mails 
stopped, and the whole of the north-west part of 
the district in their hands. In one direction an 
army of Santals roved through the district three 
thousand strong; in another their numbers amounted 
to seven thousand ; the civil authorities were driven 

^^ Letter to the Commissioner, dated the 24th of August 1855, 
para. 2. Similar reports had been previously sent by the officers 
of the other disturbed districts ; for on the 6th of August the Govern- 
ment decided, from the evidence before it, that the rebels had ' in a 
great measure abandoned opposition,' and that little remained to be 
done except to receive their submission. Despatch No. 1808 to the 
Special Commissioner. B. R. R. and C. O. R. 

^1 From the magistrate of Beerbhoom to the Commissioner of 
Burdwan, dated 24th September 1855. 


in fro'm the outlying stations, the husbandmen de- 
serted their lands, and the proclamation of pardon 
was received with loud defiance and contempt. 
The intermediate semi-aboriginal classes between 
the Santal and the Hindu, and indeed several of the 
very low castes of the Hindus themselves, appear 
at this time to have joined the rebellion, and carried 
off Brahman priests to perform the great October 
festival. ^^ Even in their moment of success, however, 
the Santals were not wanting in a sort of barbaric 
chivalry, and usually gave fair warning of their 
purpose to plunder a town before they actually 
came. In the latter half of September (about the 
2 2d or the 23d) the capital of Beerbhoom was 
thrown into a panic by the receipt of such a mes- 
sage. A post-runner returned one day, saying the 
rebels had seized him while on his journey, taken 
away his mail bags, and spared his life only on the 
condition that he would carry a twig of their national 
Sal tree to the magistrate. The latter official re- 
ported to Government that the twig had ' three 
leaves on it, each leaf signifying a day that is to 
elapse before their arrival.' 

In spite of the common danger, discord still 
reigned between the civil and military authorities. 
The actual operations of the troops had been freed 
from the control of the magistrate ; but as martial 
law had not been declared, the military remained 
individually amenable to the civil officers for their 
acts. No distinct line had been fixed where the 

^- The Durga Puja. 


authority of the latter ended ; constant misunder- 
standings resulted, and every post carried an angry 
reference on the point. 

In the early part of November, after the western 
districts had suffered four months' devastation. Go- 
vernment reluctantly proclaimed martial law. It 
had tried in vain to avert the rigours of military 
occupation ; but its leniency had only resulted in 
an occupation by the rebels, instead of by our own 
troops. The local officers, by understating the 
disturbances, had first allowed them to spread, and 
then grudged any transfer of their authority to the 
military till they found that the rebels had entirely 
usurped it. As soon as the order for martial law 
went forth, things assumed a very different appear- 
ance. Official bickerings ceased, and requisitions for 
supplies formed the only communications between the 
brigadier and the collector. A cordon of outposts, 
in some instances numbering twelve to fourteen 
thousand men,^'^ quickly pushed back the Santals from 
the open county, and in six weeks nothing remained 
but to sweep the jungle clear of stragglers. Before 
the end of the cold weather (1855-56) the rebels had 
formally tendered their submission, and thousands 
of them were peacefully at work upon a new road. 

But while the Government, misled by the reports 
of local officers, and actuated by its traditional 
leniency towards the people, had failed in promptly 

83 Letter from Brigadier L. S. Bird, commanding the Beerbhoom 
and Bancorah frontier force, to the Collector of Beerbhoom, dated 
loth December 1855. B. R. R. 


dealing with the rebels, it had lost not a moment in 
searching for and trying to remove the causes of 
discontent. It directed a minute inquiry into that 
cheap and practical administration which had for- 
merly been so much applauded. The Santals had 
complained of the distance of the courts : the 
Government's own servants now reported, that 
along the Santal frontier the English officers ' are 
too few, and stationed too far apart, to exercise an 
effectual supervision over the great extent of country 
placed under their control. '^^ It speedily became 
apparent that the economy of the former admini- 
stration consisted in taking the taxes without giving 
anything in return for them, — an economy that had 
resulted in an insurrection for which the State had 
paid more in six months than the cost of ten years' 
good government No sooner had. order been re- 
stored than the Governor of that day retracted the 
errors of his predecessors. He erected the Santal 
territory into a separate district. Instead of a 
single officer, taken from the subordinate depart- 
ment, the covenanted civil service was indented 
upon for its highest talent to administer the abori- 
ginal frontier. The old police, who had tyrannized 
over the simple peasantry, were rooted out, and 
English officers dispensed justice at all the chief 
centres of the Santal population, besides going regu- 
larly on circuit through the villages. Justice was 

^* Joint Report of the Magistrate and Collector of Beerbhoom 
to the Commissioner of the Burdwan division, No. 145, dated 28th 
August 1855. B. R. R. 


made cheap, and brought close to every man's door ; 
and contemporary writers complained that Govern- 
ment had almost sanctioned the rebellion by grant- 
ing all that the rebels had fought for. 

The traditional coldness of the Bengal Govern- 
ment to opinions outside, if it had led to unwise 
leniency at the commencement of the insurrection, 
averted the most serious crimes at its close. To 
the public no punishment seemed too cruel for men 
who had remained in open rebellion during six 
months, burned towns, and forcibly occupied dis- 
tricts within a hundred miles of Calcutta. It is per- 
haps unfair to quote from the daily press articles 
written in the excitement of the moment ; but how 
fierce and deeply rooted was the resentment of the 
Anglo-Indian community, may be gathered from an 
essay, written at leisure after all was over, for the 
Review which worthily occupies the first place 
among Indian periodicals : ' A wild barbarian sud- 
denly admitted into the social intercourse of his 
superior in the grades of the human family, nearly 
resembles the adult tiger withdrawn from his lair 
and his haunts in the jungle.' In short, no one 
knew anything about the wrongs or the peaceful 
industry of the Santals. They were simply ' adult 
tigers' or ' bloodthirsty savages ;' and the reviewer, 
dismissing the ordinary plan of punishing only the 
actual rebels as insufficient, adopts a proposal to 
deport across the seas, not one or two ringleaders, 
but the entire population of the infected districts.^'^ 

^^ Calcutta Review, March 1856. 


Such clamours are naturally to be expected from 
a community in the position which a handful of 
our countrymen occupy in India. They in no way 
disturbed the action of the -Government. The San- 
tals had the chance of a regular trial, and only those 
suffered who had taken actual part in the rebellion. 
Most of them displayed great fortitude, owning with 
pride their share in the proceedings, and blaming 
the ignorance of Government as the cause of the 
war. ' You forced us to fight against you,' said one 
of their leaders in the Beerbhoom jail. ' We asked 
only what was fair, and you gave us no answer. 
When we tried to get redress by arms, you shot us 
like leopards in the jungle.'^^ 

The wrongs of the Santals proceeded chiefly from 
the inefficiency of the administration, and they 
speedily disappeared under the more exact system 
that was introduced after the revolt. Without re- 
course to pernicious and ineffectual usury laws, the 
abuses of the usurers were checked at the point 
where high interest passes into extortion. The 
Hindu money-lender might charge as high rates as 
he could get, but the law took care that the same 
debts should not be paid twice or thrice over as 
before, and the courts were close at hand to force 
the fraudulent creditor to give receipts for the sums 
repaid him. False weights and measures were 
heavily visited ; and for the first time in his history 
the Santal sold his harvest in the open market-place 

^'^ A few official papers on the Santal insurrection will be found 
in Appendix K. 


without the certainty of being cheated. Slavery 
also ceased. The courts construed very strictly the 
Act of 1843 on the subject ; and before 1858 it had 
become apparent that if a slave fled, or refused to 
work, his master had no effectual recourse at law 
against him. The demand for workmen on the 
railways completely changed the relation of labour 
to capital. Not many years before, it had been a 
good thing for a Santal to be the serf of a powerful 
master ; but now he could earn a competence as a 
freeman. The natural reason for slavery — to wit, 
the absence of a wage-fund for free workmen — 
was no longer felt, and slavery itself disappeared. 
The Indian railways are frequently cited as proofs 
of how Englishmen can carry out great and untried 
enterprises in the furthest parts of the world. Such 
proofs they undoubtedly are ; but to a person on 
the spot, it seems that the railway's chief mission 
in India has been, not so much to aggrandize our 
own race, as to restore the balance between labour 
and capital among the native population, and to 
root out slavery from the land. 

A discovery had meanwhile been made in the 
remote north-east frontier of Bengal, which was 
destined still further to improve the position of the 
Santals and similar tribes in the west. The tea 
plant had been found growing wild throughout 
Assam and the neighbouring provinces. The first 
attempts at cultivating it were yielding enormous 
profits, but the absence of labourers forbade the 
hopes of raising it on a large scale. The most 


fertile provinces in the world lay waste, waiting 
for inhabitants, when capitalists bethought them- 
selves of the crowded highlands on the west, and 
beo-an to recruit armies of labourers among them. 
The transport of large bodies of men everywhere 
requires supervision ; but in India, unless the 
supervision be of the most careful character, the 
loss of life is appalling. The hill-men knew nothing 
of the dangers which beset them on their journey 
through the valley and up the eastern rivers, and 
the recruiters who superintended their transmission 
knew very little more. As the labour transport 
trade increased, the accommodation for conveying 
the coolies became alarmingly inadequate. They 
made the passage in crowded open boats, or in 
still more fatally crowded steamers, without the 
least attention to cleanliness or proper diet, and 
sometimes without medical assistance of any sort. 
On several trips the mortality attracted the notice 
of Government, and it became necessary to place 
the whole system under the superintendence of 
public officers. Care was taken that no labourer 
should be removed from his village under false 
pretences or by compulsion. On leaving his native 
district he had to appear before a magistrate, who 
asked him whether he was willing to go, and 
explained the nature of the service on which he 
was about to enter. If the recruiter had deceived 
the labourer, the latter could at this stage obtain 
his discharge, and an allowance for the expenses 
of his journey home. The term of service was 


eventually fixed at three years, during which the 
planter guaranteed the labourer constant employ- 
ment at wages about twice as high as those which 
prevail in his own country. The planter had also 
to pay the cost of his journey, provide a house for 
him, with medical attendance, and all other ap- 
pliances which tend to keep the human frame in 
health. His whole family gets employment, and 
every additional child, instead of being the means 
of increasing his poverty, becomes a source of 
wealth. The labour is the lightest known to agri- 
culture, and as soon as a boy can walk he can 
earn his livinof. 

Migration has therefore become justly popular 
among the highlanders of the west, and thousands 
of them are conveyed every month to the distant 
provinces in the east.®^ The planters complained 
at first that the Government supervision was op- 
pressively minute ; but after several changes, a 
system of labour transport has been developed, 
without a parallel for humanity and efficiency 
in any other country in the world. The Santal 
has not benefited by it so much as some of the 
kindred races, for he is less sturdy than the true 
highlander of the upper table-land, and bears with 
difficulty a sudden change of climate. The lower 
sort of recruiters, however, collect large bands in the 
Santal country, and pass them off upon the planters 

^'^ I have no complete returns, but in 1865, when ex officio super- 
intendent of labour transport at Kooshtea, I estimated the number at 
3000 a month. In July it amounted to 3827, in May to 3236 adult 
labourers, or, including children, to about 4000 souls. 

VOL. I. R 


as beloneinof to some other of the hardier hill- 

In a few years the emigrants return rich men, 
and meanwhile their going away renders the struggle 
for life easier among their countrymen who remain 
at home. While one stream flows steadily to the 
north-east frontier, another diverges at Calcutta, 
and crosses over the sea to the Mauritius or the 
West Indies, whence they return at the expiry of 
their contracts with savings averaging ^20 sterling, 
a sum sufficient to set up a Santal as a considerable 
proprietor in his own village. The more industrious 
of the emigrants amass very considerable properties, 
a single family sometimes bringing back ^200, 
which is as orreat a fortune to the hill-men of 


Western Bengal as ^5000 would be to an English 

The civilisation of the Santal has by no means 
kept pace with his material prosperity. The only 
vigorous attempt on the part of the State to give 
him education, has been in the half-Hinduized 
colony within the ring of pillars in the north ; and 
the vehicle of instruction is Bengali, a language 
which the pure Santal abhors. What zeal and 
patience could do, the missionaries, aided by the 
Government grants, have done for the mixed Santals 
of that part ; but if the race is ever to be won back 
to civilisation, it must be by strictly vernacular 
schools. A learned missionary in the south has 
reduced their language to writing, published its 
grammar, with a vocabulary appended, and every 



month issues little Santal tracts from his private 
press. Schools have sprung up in his immediate 
vicinity, to which the Santals flock to learn their 
mother tongue ; but he is hampered for want of 
funds, and unless the State assist the operations 
by a grant, their extension on an adequate scale 
can hardly be hoped for. 

I have dwelt at considerable length on the 
Beerbhoom highlanders, partly on account of the 
valuable light which their language and customs 
shed upon the non-Aryan element in the rural 
population of Bengal, partly for the instruction 
which their recent history furnishes as to the pro- 
per method of dealing with the aboriginal races. 
The Indian Government cannot afford any longer 
to be unacquainted with the character, condition, 
and necessities of these primitive forest-tribes who 
everywhere surround our frontier, and whose ethni- 
cal kindred form so important an element of the 
population on the plains. In the old times, when 
war and pestilence constantly thinned them, the 
system of non-inquiry acted tolerably well ; but now 
that peace is sternly imj^osed, when vaccination is 
introduced, and everything is done that modern 
science can suggest to reduce the ravages of 
pestilence to a minimum, the people increase at 
a rate that threatens to render the strufjorle for 
life harder under British rule than under Mussul- 
man tyranny. At the same time, we have taken 
away slavery, the last resource of the cultivator 
when he cannot earn a livelihood for his family. 


In short, we are attempting to govern according to 
the principles of Christian humanity and modern 
civiHsation, forgetful that under such a system the 
numbers of a people increase, while in India the 
means of subsistence stand still. Progress implies 
dangers unknown in stationary societies, and an 
imported civilisation is a safe experiment only 
when the changes which it works are ascertained 
and provided for. In the absence of machinery 
for discovering the pressure of the population, we 
are liable at any moment to be rudely awakened 
to the fact that the blessings of British rule have 
been turned into curses ; and, as in the case of the 
Santals before their rising, that protection from the 
sword and pestilence has only intensified the diffi- 
culty of subsistence. Statistics form an indispens- 
able complement of civilisation ; but at present we 
have no reliable means of ascertaining the popula- 
tion of a single district of rural Bengal, the quantity 
of food it produces, or any one of those items which 
as a whole render a people prosperous and loyal, 
or hungry and seditious. These are the problems 
which Indian statesmen during the next fifty years 
will be called upon to solve. Their predecessors 
have given civilisation to India; it will be their duty 
to render that civilisation at once beneficial to the 
natives and safe for ourselves. 




T N 1 784,^ Parliament, dissatisfied with the constant 
chancres in the orovernment of the East India 
Company's territories, and moved by the griev- 
ances of ' divers rajahs, zemindars, polygars, and 
other native landholders,' directed the establish- 
ment of ' permanent rules for the administration of 
justice founded on the ancient laws and usages of 
the country.' During thirty years the Court of 
Directors had vacillated between the employment 
of English or of native officers in the internal 
management of Bengal. ' To appoint the Com- 
pany's servants to the office of collectors,' wrote 
Clive to the Select Committee in 1767, 'or to do 
any act by any exertion of the English power, 
which can be equally done by the nabob, would be 
throwing off the mask, and declaring the Company 
soubah (governor) of the province.' Accordingly, 
for the first four years after the emperor at Delhi 
had invested the Company with the management 

^ 24 Geo. III. c. 25, s. 39. 


of Bengal, this system of a double administration 
was upheld, and the actual work of government 
remained In the hands of natives. But a conviction 
had gradually made its way among the most expe- 
rienced servants of the Company, that this shirking 
of our responsibilities was both unmanly and im- 
politic. Mr. Holwell, the principal survivor of the 
Black Hole, and its chronicler, declared himself 
strongly on the subject : ' We have nibbled at these 
provinces for eight years, and notwithstanding an 
Immense acquisition of territory and revenue, what 
benefit has resulted from our successes to the Com- 
pany ? Shall we go on nibbling and nibbling at 
the bait, until the trap falls and crushes us ? . . . 
Let us boldly dare to be soubahs ourselves.' ^ 

It was not till 1769, however, that English 
supervisors were appointed to each of the great 
divisions of the province. From these gentlemen 
— too few in number to exercise an accurate over- 
sight upon any single department— the Council 
expected an exhaustive control over the whole 
internal administration. Their principal function 
was to act as ' some check to the gross mismanage- 
ment and extortion practised by those who levied, 
and to the fraudulent evasion of those who paid, the 
assessment.'"^ But fiscal duties formed only a small 
part of their office. They were to be not so much 
revenue officers as antiquarians, historians, and rural 

^ Quoted from Mr. Kaye's Administration of the East India Com- 
pany, p. 79. 8vo, 1853. 

^ Life of Lord Teignmouth, by his Son, p. 22, vol. i. 8vo, 1843. 

THE SUPERVISORS, 1769-17 7 2. 263 

statisticians. The Government furnished them with 
the heads of a few essays which they might begin 
upon at once. ' The form of the ancient constitu- 
tion of the province, compared with the present;' 
' an account of its possessors or rulers, the order of 
their succession, the revohitions in their famihes, 
and their connections ; the pecuHar customs and pri- 
vileges which they or their people have established 
and enjoyed ; and, in short, every transaction which 
can serve to trace their origin and progress, or has 
produced any material change in the affairs of the 
province.'^ Having brought these simple historical 
researches to a satisfactory conclusion, they were to 
proceed to the investigation of the land tenures and 
of the revenues, to distinguish rapidly and infallibly 
between customary cesses and illegal extortions, to 
submit a scheme for the administration of justice, to 
draw up a list of the products of the province, to 
report on its commercial capabilities, not forgetting 
an exhaustive account of the means of developing 
its internal resources, with suggestions for removing 
those multitudinous obstructions between the pro- 
ducer and the consumer, which had so fatally damped 
the spirit of industry under Mussulman misrule. 
Their leisure hours, which the Council seems to 
have expected would hang heavily, the supervisors 
might beguile by acting as fathers to the people, 
protecting the weak against the strong, helping the 
cultivators to improve their land, the merchants to 

* Proceedings of the President and Select Committee, dated i6th 
August 1769. 


extend their trade, the manufacturers to increase 
their products, and all classes to be wiser and 
better than before. They were also to impress 
upon the agriculturist, ' in the most forcible and 
convincing manner,' that the Company's measures 
were devised for his relief, and that opposition to 
them would only be ' riveting his own chains, and 
confirming his servitude and dependence on his 

In short, the supervisors were expected to do 
more than they could possibly accomplish, and the 
result was that they did less than they might have 
clone. During their first year of office, the great 
famine described in Chapter I. befell Bengal ; and 
no one can read that tragical narrative without feel- 
ing that British humanity and administrative skill 
had not yet been brought to bear upon the rural 
masses. While ten millions of men were being 
swept from the face of the earth, the supervisors 
devoted themselves with assiduity to antiquarian or 
statistical essays ; and, with a few noble exceptions, 
the frequent allusions they make to the sad scenes 
amid which their literary labours were conducted, 
are introduced not as the one urofent business of 
the day, but as connected with the revenues, or the 
state of cultivation, or whatever else formed the 
main subject of the report. For two years longer 
the internal government remained as completely in 
the hands of tliQ natives as under Clive's ' double ' 

^ Proceedings of the President and Select Committee, dated i6th 
August 1769. Quoted from Mr. Kaye's Administration, p. 164. 

HASTINGS' FLAN, 1772. 265 

system. ' Black collectors ' ground down the 
peasantry, and the revenue-farmers divided their 
energies between concocting frauds upon the ^Go- 
vernment and devising illegal cesses to be wrung 
out of the artisans and cultivators. But on the 
13th of April 1772, John Cartier made over charge 
of the province to Warren Hastings,*^ and before the 
end of the month a momentous change had taken 
place. The new President boldly accepted the re- 
sponsibilities of empire, and on the 4th of May the 
East India Company, by a solemn act, stood forth 
as the visible governors of Bengal. Committees of 
circuit, composed of the ablest men in the Council, 
journeyed from district to district, careless of the 
deadly heat of summer and the more deadly 
malaria of the rains, investigated the capabilities 
and necessities of each division on the spot, ad- 
justed the revenues, and righted ancient wrongs 
with a strong hand. When the Commissioners re- 
turned to the capital and compared the results of 
their labours, it was found that the supervisors had 
failed to do the work for which they had been 
appointed. About the same time, the Court of 
Directors wrote an indignant letter, complaining 
that the supervisors had brought the province to a 
more miserable state than even that in which they 
had found it. Before this letter had reached India, 
however, their fate had been sealed. 

In 1772 the intermediate machinery of 'black 

^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 13th April 1772, para. 9. I. O. R. 


collectors ' between the taxpayer and the super- 
visors was abolished, and these latter became the 
collectors of the land revenue, vested with the 
powers of civil judges within their respective dis- 
tricts, and with a limited control over the native 
officials, who still retained their magisterial and 
police functions.^ Two years, however, had scarcely 
elapsed before the old system was reverted to ; the 
English collectors were recalled, their duties trans- 
ferred to native agents, and the police made en- 
tirely over to the hereditary Foujdars.^ In 1781, 
the Foujdars, who had thus been reinstated in 
1775, were in their turn abolished, and their duties 
vested in the civil judge, or in the chief landholder 
in the neighbourhood, according to the caprice of 
the secretary who happened to be in office. Mean- 
while Hastings had directed his energies in another 
direction than internal reforms ; system existed 
nowhere, and the following year brought, as usual, 
a change.^ At last the murmurs of the people 
reached the ears of Parliament, and drew forth 
the Act of 1784.^*' 

The construction of a permanent system for the 
internal administration of Benral had become so 
important, and the opposition promised to be so 

' Warren Hastings' Plan of 1772 (formally adopted on the 21st 
August), sees. I and 2. 

^ Fifth Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, 
p. 6. 1812. 

^ The Administration of Justice in British India, by W. H. Morley, 
Barrister-at-Law, p. 52. 8vo, 1858. 

1" In treating of this period of harassing change, Auber is, accord- 
ing to his wont, complacent, Mill querulous, and Morley exact. 


great, that the task was committed to a peer of 
the realm. ' On Monday last,' says the Calcutta 
Gazette of the 14th September 1786, ' arrived in the 
river the Right Honourable the Earl of Cornwallis, 
and on Tuesday he came on shore.' The new 
Governor-General carried with him instructions to 
frame a system of government in accordance with 
the usages of the country. But he speedily dis- 
covered that, in order to do this, he had first to 
ascertain what those usages really were, and that 
the ruinous changes of the past twenty years had 
chiefly proceeded from the hasty adoption of suc- 
cessive systems on insufficient data. But with 
regard to the agency by which the country was 
to be administered. Lord Cornwallis wavered not 
a moment. He decided that English officers must 
be at the head of every department, both in 
the capital and in the provinces, and that natives 
were trustworthy only so far as they could be 
strictly watched.^^ During the first three years of 
his eovernment, he confined his attention to collect- 
ine evidence on which at a future date to base a 
permanent system, and to this end remodelled the 
divisions of Bengal, placing each district under an 
experienced English officer, in whom he concen- 
trated the whole functions of government — fiscal, 
civil, criminal, and police. ^^ 

It was to this measure that Beerbhoom owed its 

11 It should be remembered that if BengaH officials imder Mussul- 
man rule were corrupt, they were also for the most part unpaid, and 
had grown accustomed to making their livelihood by oppression. 

12 MS. Records of the Board of Revenue, Calcutta. Selections 


existence as a separate district. Mr. Christopher 
Keating, as collector, magistrate, and civil judge, 
ruled with an absolute sway over seven thousand 
five hundred square miles,^^ and made his policy- 
felt by the hill-tribes many a day's march beyond 
his frontier. The district naturally divided itself 
into two parts : the Rajah of Beerbhoom's terri- 
tory on the north of the Adji, and the Rajah of 
Bishenpore's on the south.^* Mr. Keating directed 
the movements of the troops, received the rent of 
the cultivators, decided civil suits, purveyed for 
military detachments passing through his district, 
inflicted punishment on petty offenders, sent heinous 
ones in chains to the Muhammadan law officer, and 
acted as cashier to a great commercial company. 
It would be unreasonable to look for perfect finish 
in walls whose builders held the plummet in one 
hand and the sword in the other ; and if the admini- 
stration of such men as Mr. Keating was effective 
on the whole, it is as much as an after generation 
which works at greater leisure and with more com- 
plete machinery has a right to expect. 

The realization of the revenue formed the col- 

from Calaitia Gazette (1786), vol. i. pp. 185, 186. Morley, pp. 53, 54. 
The only limitations on the collector's powers were in regard to his 
magisterial and police functions. These will be subsequently ex- 

^^ This calculation is based on the maps published by the Survey 

1* Beerbhoom and the hill-countiy subject thereto, but now com- 
prised within the Santal purgunnahs, 130 miles by 40, or 5200 square 
miles. Bishenpore, now part of Bancorah and Midnapore, 2300 
square miles. Total area of the united district, 7500 square miles. 


lector's paramount duty, and on his success in this 
respect, rather than on the prosperity of the people, 
his reputation as an officer depended. The Council 
still acted to a certain extent as if Bengal were an 
estate which yielded a large rental, but involved 
none of the responsibilities of government, and 
regarded its rural administrators rather as the land- 
stewards of a private property, than as the channels 
for receiving and redistributing a public revenue. 
It was a matter of the first importance, therefore, 
to get as much out of the district, and to spend as 
little upon it, as possible. In 1788 the total cost of 
governing Beerbhoom and Bishenpore amounted to 
^5400 sterling,^^ or fourteen shillings and sixpence 
the square mile. At present the area of the district 
has been reduced to less than one-third,^'' and the 
cost of administration has increased to ^24,869 
sterling,^^ or ^10, 13s. 6d. per square mile. The 
difference between the old and the new view of our 
duties as rural administrators is placed in a still 
stronger light by analyzing the items of expendi- 
ture. In 1788 the charge for the collection of the 
land-tax was ^4500,^^ in 1864 it was only ^3550. 

^^ The estimated monthly expenditure was sicca rupees 4394, 
or as near as may be C. R. 54,00 per annum. For the items, see 
Appendix L., ' Cost of Internal Administration before the Permanent 

I*' Bishenpore and the hill - purgunnahs having been separated 
from Beerbhoom, the area of the present jurisdiction is now 2330 
square miles. Report on the Police of the Burdwan Division for 
the Year 1863, by C. F. Montrdsor, Esq., Commissioner, p. 17. 
Folio. Bn. R. 

1^ Budget estimate for 1864-65. B. R. R. 

18 S. R. 3585 per mensem. Collector's Bills, 1788-89. B. R. R. 


In 1788 the charge for civil justice was ^708 ;" it 
is now ^7160. In 1788 the cost of the criminal 
administration was ^318^'^ only; in 1864 it was 
^9920.-^ In everything which pertains to the 
mere gathering of the taxes, the expense has dimi- 
nished'; for the public burdens bear less heavily 
on the people, and are consequently more easily 
collected. In everything which pertains to the 
protection of the subject, the charge has increased 
from ten to thirty fold. The English have ceased 
to be i\\Q. pitblicani^ and have become the governors 
of Bengal. 

The Rajah of Beerbhoom held the territory on 
the north of the Adji at an annual land-tax of 
;^65,ooo,'^ or twelve pounds a square mile, including 
the forest and hill tracts. As a full half of the land 
fell under these categories, the Government rent 
amounted to ninepence on each cultivable acre. 
The Rajah of Bishenpore's estates on the south of 
the Adji were assessed at ^40,000,"^ being equal to 
^17, 8s. per square mile, or allowing the same 
deduction for waste land, to one shilling per acre. 
The rajahs were left to bargain with the cultivators 
about the rents of their multitudinous little holdings, 

i» S. R. 556 per mensem. Monthly Bills, 1788-89. B. R. R. 

"^^ S. R. 250 per mensem. As the value of the sicca rupee was 
constantly changing, I have not attempted to give the exact value in 
English money. The above sums are within a pound or so. 

21 For the expenditure of 1864-65, see Appendix M., ' Present 
Cost of the Administration of Beerbhoom.' B. R. R. 

22 S. R. 611,321, Jamah-wasil-baki of 1788-89, forwarded to Board 
of Revenue, ist May 1789. B. R. R. 

23 S. R. 386,707, Jamah-wasil-baki of 1788-89. 


without any interference on the part of Government, 
so long as they punctually discharged the public 
demands. In most years, however, so far from 
paying the land-tax punctually, they failed to pay 
a considerable portion of it at all, and the col- 
lector had constantly to assist them with troops to 
enforce their claims on the under-tenants, and to put 
down armed opposition on the part of the culti- 
vators.^* The land-tax was subject to variation 
every year,"" and the proprietors availed themselves 
of each slight increase as a pretext for enhancing 
the rents of their tenants. The latter complained 
that they never knew at sowing - time what rent 
would be exacted at harvest, as the middlemen 
concealed the fact of an increase until the peasantry 
were fairly embarked in the cultivation of their 
fields. A glaring instance of this occurred in 
1788-89. The land-tax had been slightly aug- 
mented, and the rents raised all round in conse- 
quence. The peasantry resisted, on the plea that 
they had not been informed of the rise before 
the seed was in the ground, and the collector had 
to report the whole district in arms against the 
new assessment."*^ Mr. Keating's Sepoys speedily 

"* From Collector to John Shore, Esq., President and members of 
the Board of Revenue, dated 13th February 1789. Collector to Board 
of Revenue, dated 14th April 1790. Same to same, 25th October 
1790 ; and in many other letters. B. R. R. 

-^ Annual Bandobusts and Hastaboods, Board of Revenue. 
C. O. R. 

-*' Letter from the Collector to John Shore, Esq., President and 
members of the Board of Revenue, dated 13th February 1789. 
B. R. R. 


brought those who resided within the district to 
reason,^^ and judicial process was issued through 
the neiehbourinof collectors against the numerous 
cultivators who, according to the custom of the 
times, protected their goods from seizure by living 
just beyond the boundary of the district. The 
neighbouring collectors, however, were anxious to 
tempt cultivators to settle on the estates which the 
famine of 1769 had left depopulated in their own 
districts. Protection against judicial proceedings 
formed the most alluring bait they could offer. They 
therefore declined or delayed to serve Mr. Keating's 
summonses. An angry correspondence followed, the 
matter was handed up to Government, and the head 
assistants of the militant collectors were sent out 
to settle the question on the boundaries of their 
respective districts. ^^ After hunting together for a 
few weeks, they came to the conclusion that as the 
cultivators had not been acquainted with the rise in 
the land-tax, and consequently could not have fore- 
seen an increase of rent when tillage commenced, 
they could not be made liable for any subsequent 
enhancement during the year. Mr. Arbuthnot, the 
Beerbhoom assistant, foreseeing that a meeting with 
the collector after this decision would not be plea- 
sant, remained out in camp, shooting tigers until 
he got appointed to another district, and then 
hurried down to Calcutta to take the oaths, with- 

-'' Letter from the Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 25th 
October 1790. B. R. R. 

** From Board of Revenue to Collector, dated loth May 1790. 
The spot selected was Dacca-Barry. B. R. R. 


out coming into headquarters to bid Mr. Keating 

The distribution and collection of the land-tax 
will fall more appropriately to be considered in the 
volume on the land tenure. The authorities had 
nothing to do with the details as long as the public 
demand was satisfied. In event of a hopeless deficit, 
the collector imprisoned the landholder, and took 
charge of his estates. For a long time hopeless 
deficit had been the normal condition of things in 
Bengal, and no country gentlemen was sure of 
keeping out of jail unless he were an idiot or a 
minor. I have already mentioned that the earliest 
official records of Beerbhoom disclose the Rajah of 
Bishenpore in confinement,^*' and the young Rajah 
of Beerbhoom shared the same fate within a few 
months after he came of age.^^ 

Besides the land-tax, only two other sources of 
revenue passed through the collector's hands — 
namely, the excise and the temple-tax.'^^ In 1790 
collectors were ordered to take charge of the spirit 
duty, and to report on the consumption of liquor in 
their respective districts. ^'^ Until this year the tax 

2^ Letter from Mr. George Arbuthnot to the Collector, dated 
Dacca-Barry, 30th June 1790. Same to same, dated 12th July 1790, 
and other correspondence. B. R. R. 

30 From Collector to John Shore, Esq., P. and M.B.R., dated loth 
February 1789. B. R. R. 

31 From Collector to Board of Revenue, 12th January 1791- 
From same to same, dated ist November 1791. B. R. R. 

32 The temporary order to collect the dues and exactions known 
as ' Sayer' was not carried out in Beerbhoom. 

33 Circular order from the Board of Revenue, dated 19th April 
VOL. I. S 


had been levied sometimes by the landholder on his 
own account, sometimes by the collector, and some- 
times by both."' It was a very difficult impost to 
levy at all. The native stills consisted of earthen 
pots with a bamboo tube, worth altogether about a 
farthing, which were fixed up in the jungle after 
dark, worked during the night, and broken before 
sunrise. In 1787 Mr. Sherbourne had imposed a 
tax on behalf of Government, of one pound on each 
spirit shop in the district capital, and eight shillings 
on every shop in the country, leaving the vendors 
free to make and sell as much as they could. The 
Rajah of Bishenpore levied from two to four 
shillings on each shop within his domains, and the 
Rajah of Beerbhoom extorted a considerable 
revenue as the price of permits to vend spirits 
clandestinely during the sacred month of Ramzan.^^ 
The spirit-dealer who resisted this exaction, and 
ventured to sell his liquor without such a licence, 
was dragged before the Muhammadan law officer, 
bastinadoed, or heavily fined. 

The small amount of revenue produced by the 
Excise, notwithstanding the number of the imposts, 

1790. The original has dropped out of the records ; but the 19th of 
April is given as its date in the collector's reply. Like many other 
of the most valuable circulars, it is not to be found in the Peters 
edition of the Board's Circular Orders, printed by authority in 1838, 
4to, Calcutta. 

^* Collector to Board, dated 22d May 1790. B. R. R, 
^^ The name of this singular impost was ' Soorie-Moosey-Koosey- 
Ramzan-Salami.' It is described in a report on Sayer, dated June 
1790, from which document, along with the letter of the 22d May 
above cited, this account of the Excise is chiefly derived. B. R. R. 

THE EXCISE, 1789 AND 1865. 275 

speaks very plainly as to the looseness and inaccu- 
racy of the administration. In 1789, when the dis- 
trict was three times its present size, the spirit duty 
yielded ;^330 only \^^ in 1864-65 it amounted to 
£^'ic^\, or nearly twenty times the previous sum.^^ 
This rise is due not so much to increased consump- 
tion as to a more exact vigilance in levying the 
duty. When we assumed the direct administration 
of the district, drunkenness was universal among 
the lower orders. The excessive cheapness of 
liquor pandered to the craving for stimulants, — 
a craving always sufficiently strong among a semi- 
aboriginal population like that of Beerbhoom. In- 
deed, drunkenness formed so marked a feature in 
the Bengali character, as to be specified in ancient 
treaties, and is noticed in the letters and diaries 
of cursory travellers of those days.^^ One of the 
earliest magistrates of Beerbhoom has left it on 
record, that almost the whole serious crime of the 
district proceeded from this vice. Only the coarsest 
and most injurious preparations were used. A half- 
penny purchased six quart bottles of liquor that 
would madden the half-starved hill-men or foresters, 

■ ^^ Sicca Rupees 3154. 
^'' Budget estimate for 1864-65 : 

Abkari, . . . . C. R. 45,929 
Opium, .... 7,018 

C. R. 52,947. B. R. R. 
^^ For example, Mrs. Fay, after a few clays' x-esidence in Calcutta 
(1780), remarks on the immoderate fondness of the natives for liquor. 
Original Letters 'from India, p. 230. 8vo, Calcutta 1817. Meer 
Jaffier's Perwanah for the Granted Lands, 1757. Sanadd for the 
Company's Zamindari, etc. 



and prepare them for the most desperate enterprises. 
The effect of a strict enforcement of the excise in 
Beerbhoom has been to increase the price of the 
commoner hquors sixfold, and to introduce into 
general use milder sorts unknown in the district 
when it passed under British rule. Temperance 
has become a necessity to the people ; and excepting 
among the semi-aboriginal castes, drunkenness is 
unknown. The followinor table shows the retail 
prices of intoxicating drinks in Beerbhoom in 1 790 
and 1866 : — 

Native Name. 


Price in 1790. 

Price in 1866. 

Muhua ka sharab. 

A sort of raisin wine. 

Not used. 

6d. per quart. 


Mild fermented liquor, 
extracted from the 
date tree. 


|d. per quart. 

Pakki, 1st quality. 

Distilled rice liquor. 

igd. per quart. 

5d. per quart. 

Pakki, 2d quality. 


f d. per quart. 

4d. per quart. 


Fermented rice liquor. 

^d. per gallon. 

3d. per gallon. 

Mr. Keating reported^^ that the last was by 
far the most pernicious. ' To its cheapness,' he 
writes, ' I ascribe the numerous robberies and other 
depredations almost daily experienced, it being a 
notorious fact on the records of the criminal court, 
that the perpetrators of these crimes first work 
themselves up to the perpetrating of them by this 
kind of liquor, and by smoking the herb called 
Bang.' The more cowardly sort of housebreakers 
in India, as elsewhere, still resort to drugs for arti- 
ficial courage ; but drunkenness, as a prolific source 

^^ Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 22d May 1790. B. R. R. 


of crime, is now unknown in Bengal. During nearly 
three years' residence in Beerbhoom (1863-66), only 
a single case came judicially before me which I 
could trace directly or indirectly to intemperance ; 
and I believe that the maoristerial officers through- 
out rural Bengal will bear similar testimony to the 
sobriety of the people. The hard-working labourers, 
like the corresponding classes in all countries, enjoy 
themselves in the liquor shop after their day's toil ; 
but the most violent form their excitement takes 
consists of making profound obeisances to every 
one they meet on their way home. A few indi- 
viduals of the upper classes, who have thrown off 
the restraints of Hinduism, are accused of secretly 
indulging in English spirits. Such cases, however, 
do not come before a court ; and I repeat with con- 
fidence, what can be said of no European country, 
that drunkenness, as a regular element of crime, 
does not exist in Bengal. Disputes about fisheries, 
boundaries, water-courses, and precedence in reli- 
gious processions, yield an unfailing crop of mis- 
demeanours ; but although nine-tenths of the crime 
of the district consists of assaults and similar petty 
acts of violence, it never appears that intemperance 
has led to a breach of the peace. Much of this is 
due to a well-administered Excise. Instead of the 
timid, laxly-enforced impost of eight shillings on 
each shop, with liberty to make as much liquor as 
the proprietor could sell, Government now exacts 
a heavy duty on each still ; and at every point 
in the manufacture or vend of intoxicating liquors, 


a licence is required, and a tax has to be paid. 
Occasionally over-zealous officers of the lower class 
lay themselves open to the charge of increasing the 
revenue at the expense of the sobriety of the people ; 
but, as a whole, the efforts to maintain the price of 
liquor at the maximum rate consistent with the pre- 
vention of smueelingf, have obtained an unusual 
measure of success. In Beerbhoom, at any rate, 
the legitimate object of a system of excise seems to 
have been attained, namely — to quote the opening 
words of the instructions issued by the Bengal 
Government to its revenue officers — ' to raise as 
large an amount of revenue from intoxicating liquors 
and drugs as is compatible with the greatest possible 
discouragement of their use.'"^'' 

The only other source of revenue that the first 
English administrators discovered and appropriated 
in Beerbhoom, was one which, although insignificant 
compared with the land-tax, occupies many pages of 
the records, and is peculiarly characteristic of the 
time. Among the solitudes of the western moun- 
tains, on the extreme frontier of the district, is a 
Holy City,^^ with its ancient temple to Mahadeva, 
whither a vast concourse of pilgrims annually resort. 
The Mussulman dynasty had made the most of such 
opportunities of raising revenue at the expense of 

^•^ ' Rules for the Regulation of the Excise,' prescribed by the 
Board of Revenue, Lower Provinces. Rule I. The present prices 
of spirituous liquors exhibited in the foregoing table were furnished 
to me by Babu Kinaram Ghose, zamindar of Nagri, and checked by 
personal inquiries from wine-sellers and palki-bearers. 

"'^ Deoghur — literally, the divine city or house. 


the unbdiever ; and their historians commend the 
pious Moorshud for his attentions to the great idol 
of Orissa, by which he restored a hundred thousand 
sterhng to the annual revenue of that province.^- 
The Rajahs of Beerbhoom had let the Holy City 
to the chief priest, who paid a fixed rent, and made 
what he could out of the devotees. The early 
English collectors thought they could increase the 
impost by managing the temple business themselves. 
In 1788 Mr. Hesilrigge, the head assistant, having 
been deputed to the Holy City, with a view to 
carrying out the change, organized a numerous 
establishment of priests, money-takers, and watch- 
men, at the expense of the State.*^ It was found, 
however, as soon as the temple became a Go- 
vernment speculation, either that the liberality of 
the devotees had strangely cooled, or that the 
priests must be embezzling the oblations. The 
revenue fell off; additional officers were entertained 
to watch over those already appointed ; but the 
collector still complained that the chief priest frus- 
trated his vigilance by ' besetting every avenue to 
the temple with emissaries, who induced the pilgrims 
to make their offerings before approaching the 
shrine.' This became at length a source of so much 
disquietude to Mr. Keating's strongly fiscal mind, 
that he determined to visit the temple, in order to 
exert his personal influence in stimulating the libe- 

*^ Nine lacs of sicca rupees. Stewart's History of Bengal, p. 267. 

*3 Report of the Collector to the Honourable Charles Stuart, 
President, and members of the Board of Revenue, dated 30th May 
1790. B. R. R. 


rality of the devotees, and in checking the pecula- 
tions of the priests/* 

Accordingly, escorted by a guard of thirty-five 
soldiers, the collector started on the morning of the 
2 1 St February 1791, and, allowing for the stately 
pace at which he was wont to travel, reached the 
Holy City about a week later, *'^ ' I pitched my 
tent,' he writes, ' in the midst of the pilgrims, and 
as near the temple as possible, where I attended 
daily, and was an eye-witness so far as the con- 
fusion would permit me.''*^ ' At the stated period 
the doors'*'' of the temple are thrown open, and the 
crowd rush in tumultuously, singing, dancing, pro- 
strating themselves with all the vociferations and 
madness of enthusiastic fervour. Everything is 
uproar and confusion. The offerings of bullion 
and jewels, constituting the most valuable [part of 
the presents], are now made, [being cast before the 
face] of the deity Brijjanauth, and the collecting 
Brahmans have an opportunity of secreting what 
they please without fear of detection.' The cere- 
mony consisted in pouring sacred water brought 
from the Ganges on the head of the god. Zeal 

** From Collector to Board of Revenue, dated nth January 1791. 
B. R. R. 

*^ MS. folio, labelled ' Military Correspondence,' pp. 103, 104. 
B. R. R. The guard consisted of thirty Sepoys, one jemadar, two 
havildars, and two naiks. The distance from Soorie to Deoghur — 
— the Holy City — was about eighty miles. 

•^'^ From Collector to the Honourable Charles Stuart, President, 
and members oTthe Board of Revenue, dated 28th March 1791. 

■*'■ This is an inaccuracy, probably an error in transcription ; the 
temple had then only one small door for the entrance of pilgrims. 


the pilgrims were abundantly gifted with, ' but of 
wealth among any of them there was no appear- 
ance. Not more than five families had any con- 
veyance or hired house to reside in. About a 
hundred had simply a blanket drawn over a bamboo 
as a protection from the weather ; and the rest,' 
varying from fifteen to fifty thousand, according to 
the season, 'took up their abode under the adja- 
cent trees, with no kind of conveniency whatever. 
There was too general an appearance of poverty 
to suppose that the temple could profit much from 
the oblations of its devotees, and little could be 
expected from wretches who seemed in want of 
every necessary of life.'*^ It was from this desti- 
tute throng, however, that an increased tax had to 
be extorted. Accordingly, Mr. Keating appointed 
an establishment of one hundred and twenty armed 
policemen with fifteen officers.^'' It must not be 
supposed that any protection was afforded to the 
pilgrims in return. The road winded round the 
solitary hills, buried for miles in forest, and inter- 
sected at short intervals by deep ravines which 
formed innumerable caves, swarming with robbers 
and wild beasts. The plunderers carried on their 
depredations undisturbed by the magistrate as long 
as they did not entirely close the path. The suffer- 
ings of the pilgrims, however, at length became so 
intense as to affect the popularity of the shrine, and 

^8 From Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 28th March 1791. 
B. R. R. 

•*9 From Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 30th May 1790, etc. 
B. R. R. 


leave them nothing to offer to the idol when they 
reached the Holy City. It then became a question 
of revenue, and Mr. K eating's action was prompt. 
He ordered out a detachment of native infantry to 
act against the banditti — ' reported to consist of 
about three hundred men ' — who had plundered a 
caravan of pilgrims, killing five of them, ' and en- 
tirely stopped up the road.'^'^ The nature of the 
country made the operation a difficult one, and 
the commanding officer was directed to furnish 
' as great a force from the detachment of native 
infantry ' as he could spare, ' for the clearing of 
the jungle.' The unhappy devotee who escaped 
the bandits and wild beasts upon the road fell a 
victim to the collector's harpies at the shrine, and 
after being mulcted of the last farthing, and spend- 
ing many nights of anxious waiting in the cold, often 
failed to gain the reward of his pilgrimage. A 
single narrow door, four feet by five, formed the sole 
entrance, and the great object of the pilgrims was to 
catch a sight of the god on the holy night,^^ ' which 
if they miss, their labour is lost. Thousands depart 
disappointed,' continues the collector ; but effectual 
measures were taken that they should be compelled 
to make their oblation before they went. ' Two days 
after [the holy night] not a pilgrim is to be seen.'^^ 

^° MS. folio, labelled ' Militar}^ Correspondence,' p. 144. B. R. R. 

^^ Shiva-ratri, spelt by Mr. Keating Shean-raut ; a moveable fes- 
tival depending on the full moon of Phalgun. It fell on the 22d of 
Phalgun in the year Mr. Keating visited the shrine (1791)- 

^^ From Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 31st July 1790. 
From same to same, dated 28th March 1791, etc. B. R. R. 


Under the system of non-interference pursued 
by the Mussulman Rajahs of Beerbhoom, from forty 
to one hundred thousand pilgrims visited the Holy 
City each year. They fixed the temple-tax at a 
moderate sum, and exercised none of that indecent 
intermeddling with the mysteries of the shrine 
which Mr. Keating introduced. In 1789, his first 
year of office, fifty thousand pilgrims yielded only 
^430.^^ In 1790 Mr. Keating's improved system 
produced ^900,^^ besides the price of three ponies 
which he persuaded the devotees to buy at fancy 
prices. The latter transaction discloses our early 
system of administration in an amusing if not a 
very creditable light. Mr. Keating in one letter 
describes the ponies as undersized, worn-out, old 
animals, not worth the cost of marching into the 
district headquarters, and the best of which might 
fetch from a pound to thirty shillings. In another 
he triumphantly relates to the Government in Cal- 
cutta how he has disposed of them for fourteen 
pounds.^^ This fiscal enthusiasm soon disappointed 
itself, however. In 1791 the collector determined 
still further to increase the temple-tax, and per- 
sonally superintended the oblations. That year 
only fifteen thousand pilgrims came. But Mr. 

^^ Sicca rupees 4084 :'] \ o. 

^* Sicca rupees 8463 : 6 : 2. From Collector to Board of Re- 
venue, dated 30th May 1790 ; cf. also the letter of the 31st July 1790. 
B. R. R. 

^^ These ponies appear in half-a-dozen letters. E- D. From 
Collector to Honourable Charles Stuart, President, and members of 
the Board of Revenue, dated 25th June 1790. From same to same, 
dated i8th July 1790, etc. B. R. R. 


Keating was not the man to report, that the very year 
he had visited the shrine the temple-tax decreased. 
Accordingly, ^860^*^ was extorted in gold and silver, 
besides offerings of cloth, turbans, and rice/^ The 
whole would probably amount to ^1200, and the 
collector stated that not one half of what was levied 
from the pilgrims reached his hands. Assuming 
the total sum actually paid to have been ^1500, 
the tax amounted to a rupee a head, or more than 
one man's subsistence for a month, from a crowd of 
fifteen thousand poverty-stricken wretches, of whom 
only a hundred and five had a shelter for their 

John Shore, although his views as head of the 
Board of Revenue in 1 789 were not precisely those 
which he expressed as President of the British and 
Foreign Bible Society in 1804, loathed this con- 
stant ignoble squabbling between the collector and 
the priests. He desired that some arrangement 
might be made whereby the Government's share in 
the proceedings might appear as little as possible 
to sanction the rites. Mr. Keating, finding that his 
zeal in the matter struck no responsive chord among 
the higher authorities, but wholly incapable of com- 
prehending a scruple in collecting revenue, from 
whatever source derived, suggested that the temple- 
tax might be farmed to the chief priest, naively 
adding, ' May not the number of pilgrims be en- 

^° Sicca rupees 8000. 

^'' From Collector to Board, dated 28th March 1791. B. R. R. 

58 Id. 


couraged when there is no interference of Govern- 
ment T^^ He further recommended this plan, on 
the ground ' that rehgious artifices will be practised 
and the reputation of the temple increased.'^^ Lord 
Cornwallis shared Shore's sentiments, and laboured 
the more strenuously to carry out his views, on ac- 
count of the difference of opinion which had preceded 
their separation, Mr. Keating therefore speedily 
received the Governor-General's sanction ^^ to farm 
the temple to the chief priest, and before the begin- 
ning of 1772 our traffic on the superstitions of the 
people ceased to wear the form of a direct plunder 
of their offerings to their god. The priests pos- 
sessed thirty-two rural communes, with abundance 
of pasture, and the tax was commuted to a rent 
nominally for the temple lands attached to the 
shrine — in reality, for the shrine itself.*^^ 

These worm-eaten manuscripts bring back to 
life a forgotten world. The religious ardour which 
braved the banditti of the road, the long exposure 
to the winter nights of a mountainous region, the 
oppression and profane interference of Government, 
is unknown to the Beerbhoom Hindus of the pre- 
sent day. Places of pilgrimage still exist, but the 

^^ From Collector to Board of Revenue, 30th May 1790, etc. 
B. R. R. 

^^ Letter from Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 28th March 

^^ Conveyed in the Board of Revenue's letter to the Collector, 
dated i8th July 1791. 

^'^ From Collector to William Cowper, Esq., President, and mem- 
bers of the Board of Revenue, dated 27th October 1791. The second 
of two letters bearing this date. B. R. R. 


people resort to them rather as marts or fairs than 
as the favoured abodes of the deity. Education 
has made havoc of ancient faith, and the most 
orthodox of the rising generation only abstain from 
open scepticism. It may be that the Hindus are 
entering that dark valley of unbelief which stretches 
between every old religion of a noble type and 
Christianity. The lamps by which their fathers 
walked during so many ages have burned out, and 
the more perfect light of the coming day has not 
yet dawned. 

Besides these sources of Government revenue, 
twenty-six imposts, to which custom had given a 
sort of sanction, were levied by the landholders on 
their own account.*'' The salt-duty was managed 
by a separate department in the seaboard districts, 
and levied before the article passed into consump- 
tion. Indeed, the only mention of it in the local 
records, previous to the permanent settlement, refers 
to a native officer of the department, who, while 
passing through the district, extorted benevolences 
right and left from salt-vendors by the way. 

Next in importance to the punctual realization 
of the land-tax, were the collector's duties as head 
of the Finance Department of the Company's mer- 
cantile affairs within the district. Mr. Keating was 
cashier, and his treasury a provincial bank, at which 
the commercial resident kept his account. The net 

''^ A list of twenty-five is given in a Report on Sayer, dated June 
1790 ; another is mentioned in a letter from the Collector to William 
Cowper, Esq., President, and members of the Board of Revenue, dated 
7th August 1 79 1. B. R. R. 


revenue of the district exceeded ^100,000 sterling/"' 
and the expenses of government seldom amounted 
to ^5000. Of the remaining ^^95,000, part was 
remitted to Calcutta or to other treasuries, and 
part was retained to carry on the Company's manu- 
factures in the district. The object of Government 
then, as now, was to have as little money as possible 
lying unused in the provincial treasuries, — an object 
which the more perfect machinery of the present day 
accomplishes by a mere process of routine, but which 
at the period under review was complicated by the 
collector's liability to be drawn on at any time by 
the commercial agents. The Calcutta authorities 
gave timely notice of drafts when practicable ; still 
the collector required considerable experience and 
foresight, in order to send the largest possible remit- 
tances out of the district, and yet to keep enough 
to avoid all risk of having to dishonour the Com- 
pany's cheques within it. The specie retained in 
the treasury averaged ^7000 sterling ; as soon as 
it amounted to ^10,000, a remittance to Calcutta 
was effected. Mr. Keating seems to have been 
less successful as mercantile cashier than as a 
revenue administrator. Reprimands from the 
Accountant-General came as regularly as the end 

^'^ Land-tax of Beerbhoom, . . S. R. 611,321 : 7 : 16 
Land-tax of Bishenpore, . . S. R. 386,707 : 1 1 : 7 

Total, . . . S. R. 998,029 : 3 : 3 
Of this about S. R. 950,000, or, in round numbers, ^^100,000, were 
usually realized. Jamah- wasil-baki for 1788-89, etc. B. R. R. and 
C. O. R. 


of the month ; and not 'without reason, for while 
the Calcutta exchequer had been emptied to carry 
on the Mahratta war, and the Company was bor- 
rowing thankfully at exorbitant rates, Mr. Keating 
calmly retained a cash balance of ^19,000 lying 
unused in his treasury ."^^ The district Government 
bank was managed thus : The Board of Trade 
forwarded an estimate of the drafts to be drawn 
upon the district bank during the ensuing six 
months, and the Board of Revenue named the 
treasury to which the surplus should be remitted. 
The collector sent a statement on the last day of 
each month, exhibiting the cash balances, and men- 
tioning by what remittances he purposed to dispose 
of them. The amount and date of the remittances 
were therefore left to the collector's discretion, in- 
stead of being fixed, as at present, by the central 

Of this discretion Mr. Keating did not always 
make a sound use. On one occasion he found 
himself unable to meet a commercial draft for ^8000, 
for the simple reason that he had not kept enough 
money in his treasury.^^ On another, the district 
was thrown into consternation by the treasury 
stopping payment altogether. In the end of 1790, 
the war with Tippoo had drained the Company's 
treasure-chests, and the failure of the crops in 

^^ Mr. Caldecott, Accountant to the Board of Revenue, called for 
an explanation on September 15, 1790. 

^^ From Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 19th April 1789; 
also, correspondence with Mr. John Cheap, Commercial Resident at 
Soorool. B. R. R. 


Southern India left the whole deficit to be borne 
by the Bengal districts.*'^ The collectors were or- 
dered to send down every available rupee to Cal- 
cutta ; a loan, somewhat on the principle of a Tudor 
benevolence, was obtained from the Nawab f^ and 
on the 15th of November the Accountant-General 
directed all disbursements to be suspended. Ten 
days later came another letter still more urgent for 
remittances ; during the winter the demand was 
frequently repeated, and the provincial Government 
banks throughout Bengal remained closed,'''^ It 
requires a minute acquaintance with the economy 
of rural Bengal to understand the distress which 
followed. The Company was a great manufacturer, 
and the immediate result of these measures was to 
throw many thousands of families out of work in 
mid-winter. The sudden drain upon the specie of 
the province, moreover, carried off the only cur- 
rency in which the cultivators could pay their rent 
or the artisans receive payment for the goods they 
had delivered to the commercial resident. Starv- 
ing crowds besieged the Treasury, and this single 
order of Government inflicted more suflering than 
a succession of bad crops, and contributed no trifling 
quota to that vast total of unrecorded misery 

*'" Calcutta Gazette oi iSth November 1790. Selections, vol. ii. p. 
280. The famine is referred to in m.any other places. A few months 
previously Madras had been forced to draw on the central treasury in 
Calcutta for ^21,000. C. O. R. and I. O. L. 

•"S Calcutta Gazette, i8th November 1790. Scl. ii. p. 278. 

''^ From A. Caldecott, Esq., officiating Accountant-General, to 
Collector, dated 15th November 1790. From same to same, dated 
25th November 1790, 7th January 1791, etc. B. R. R. 

VOL. I. T 


on which our Indian trophies are erected. The 
starvation of the weavers during those winter 
months, and the general behef that the Company's 
sway had come to an end, were long remembered 
in Beerbhoom/'^ 

The guarding of treasure parties demanded close 
attention. So unsafe was the country, that people 
never travelled except in large parties, or under the 
protection of armed men. Persons of rank were 
accompanied by their own retainers, and more than 
once the collector called on the commanding officer 
for a detachment of infantry, to escort wealthy 
natives, who were attempting to pass through the 
district with an insufficient force.'^ Indeed, an 
armed retinue had become a necessity for every 
one who wished to make a figure on his travels. 
The life of a civilian was as sacred in those wild 
times as it is now. The assistant magistrates and 
commercial agents camped in the haunts of the ban- 
ditti without any personal risk ; but the collector, 
deeming his position as head of the district demanded 
some little pomp, never stirred out of Soorie without 
a detachment of Sepoys. A few weeks before Mr. 
Keating's arrival at Beerbhoom, a treasure party 
had been overpowered and ^3000 plundered ; and 
the new collector determined that under his rule 

"'^ The only disbursement excepted fi'om the general interdict in 
Beerbhoom was the reward for killing tigers, to which was subse- 
quently added the diet of prisoners. In salt and opium districts the 
advances for these articles of revenue were also excepted. B. R. R. 

''1 MS. ' Military Correspondence,' folio. On one occasion the 
Rajah of Chittra's agent required a guard ; on another, a rich native 
gentleman belonging to Burdwan, etc. 


no consideration for the military should lead to a 
similar misfortune. Some of his demands sound 
unreasonable enough to officers of our days. On 
one occasion, in the middle of the rains, he called 
for an escort to convey the paltry sum of £200 to 
Moorshedabad.^^ The guard consisted of at least 
one officer and five men, for a smaller number never 
ventured into the jungle ; and the journey, including 
the return, at that season of the year occupied 
fifteen days. The pay of a Sepoy was ten shillings 
a month, that of the officer may be set down at a 
pound ; so that the cost of escort upon a journey 
that now occupies a few hours, amounted to nearly 
5 per cent, of the whole remittance. On another 
occasion, when the commanding officer could ill 
spare his men, the collector called for two heavy 
detachments to euard remittances to the same 
destination within a few days of each other, and 
the treasury guards had often to be reduced in 
order to meet these vexatious demands. The 
average number of military employed on escort 
duty amounted to sixty soldiers and nine officers at 
a cost of ^52 per mensem,"^ or £62/\. per annum, 

'2 MS. ' Military Correspondence,' p. 128. 

'■^ The charge per mensem for a detachment of twenty Sepoys, 
with its complement of officers, was as follows : 

I Jemadar, at S. R. 13, . . . S. R. 13 

I Havildar, at „ 9, . . . 5) 9 

I Naik, at „ 7, . . . » 7 

20 Sepoys, at „ 5, . . . „ 100 

Good service allowances, . . 6 

S. R. 135 per mensem, 
equal to /14 sterling. Letter to the Collector from George Cheap, 


for remittances rarely exceeding ^40,000 a year. 
The remittances in 1864 amounted to ;£'5 9,600, at 
a cost of only ;^20 for guards.^* Indeed, the whole 
charge for transmitting ;^59,ooo in 1864 hardly 
exceeds one-tenth of what was paid for the mere 
escort of ^40,000 in 1789.^^ 

As head of the provincial Government bank, 
the collector had to give some attention to the 
currency of the district. The Company paid a high 
premium on its loans, and therefore deemed it 
important to have as many as possible of its notes 
in circulation. Complicated and vexatious rules 
were enacted to attain this object. It paid all 
salaries or fixed disbursements over £ 1 200 a year, 
half in notes, half in cash,^'' thus saddling indi- 
viduals in remote places with Company's paper, 
which they had to get rid of at a loss.^^ Fre- 

Esq., paymaster to the up-country garrisons, dated Calcutta, nth 
April 1789. 

'^ This return has been furnished from the office of the District 
Superintendent of Police. The average of two half-years, viz. that 
ending 31st December 1864 and 30th June 1865, was Rs. 100 per 
six months, or £10 per annum. 

''^ The remittances during the financial year 1864-65 were 
^50,000 in specie and ;i^96oo in notes. The entire charge of 
transit and escort was Rs. 760 : 13 : i, or ^76, is. 8d. sterling, or a 
fraction over one-tenth per cent, on the sum remitted. The distance 
of the treasuries to which remittances were sent averaged 1 50 miles, 
or three times farther than the average distance in 1789. 

''^ Resolution of the Governor- General in Council, dated 27th May 
1789, etc. It is not clear whether the notes referred to in this resolu- 
tion bore interest ; but it is evident from the treasury records that 
there were a certain class of unpopular notes forced into circulation. 
C. O. R. Cf. Sir James Steuart's Proposals for the Extension of 
Paper Credit in Bengal, 1772. I. O. L. 

'■'■ The discount in September 1787 was 7 per cent, on Govern- 


quently, indeed, there was nothing in the treasury 
except paper, with which to pay the officials ; and 
an old newspaper announces as a great matter that 
the Calcutta employes would receive a month's pay 
in silver. Although paper was made a legal tender 
from the Government to the public, it seems that 
the public could not as a matter of right offer it in 
discharge of the Government demands. There is 
a letter from Mr. Keating to the Board of Revenue, 
saying that a payment of the revenue had been 
tendered in notes, and asking whether he should 
receive them.'^^ 

Every page of the records bears witness to the 
miseries incident to a vitiated currency. The 
coinage, the refuse of twenty different dynasties 
and petty potentates, had been clipped, drilled, 
filed, scooped out, sweated, counterfeited, and 
changed from its original value by every process of 
debasement devised by Hindu ingenuity during a 
space of four hundred years. The smallest coin 
could not change hands, without an elaborate cal- 
culation as to the amount to be deducted from its 
nominal value. This calculation, it need hardly 
be said, was always in favour of the stronger party. 
The treasury officers exacted an ample discount 
from the landholders, — a discount which, when 
Bengal passed under British rule, amounted to 3 

ment certificates. In 1785 it was double these amounts. — LaCcutta 
Gazette, 6th September 1787. I. O. L. 

''8 To John Shore, Esq., President, and members of the Board of 
Revenue, from Collector, dated nth April 1789, etc. B. R. R. 


■per cent, after a coin had been in circulation a single 
year, and to 5 per cent, after the second year, 
although no actual depreciation had taken place.^^ 
The landholder demanded a double allowance 
from the middleman, and the middleman extorted 
a quadruple allowance from the unhappy tiller of 
the soil. In a long indignant letter on the illegal 
cesses under which the cultivator groaned, Mr. 
Keating singles out the 'batta' or exchange on old 
rupees as the most cruel, because the least defined.®'' 
No recognised standard existed by which to limit 
the rapacity of the treasury officers. The Govern- 
ment held them responsible for remitting the net 
revenue in full, and left them to deduct such a pro- 
portion from each coin, as they deemed sufficient to 
cover all risk of short weight. Moreover, so great 
was the variety of coin in use, that they claimed a 
further discretion as to what they would receive at 
all. Cowries (shells), copper coins of every denomi- 
nation, lumps of copper without any denomination 
whatever, pieces of iron beaten up with brass, 
thirty-two different kinds of rupees, from the full 
sicca to the Viziery, hardly more than half its 

''^ The Principles of Money applied to the Present State of Coin 
in Bengal, composed for the use of the Honourable the East India 
Company, by Sir James Steuart, Baronet, p. 16, small 4to. Privately 
printed for the Company in 1772. Grant's Expediency Maintained, 
p. 23, 8vo, 1813. Cf Essais sur I'Histoire Economique de la 
Turquie, p. 109, Paris 1865. 

so From Collector to the Honourable Charles Stuart, President, 
and members of the Board of Revenue, in reply to the Board's 
order to introduce the decennial settlement, dated April 1790. 
B. R. R. 


value,^^ pagodas of various weights,®^ dollars ^^ of 
different standards of purity, gold mohurs worth 
from twenty-five to thirty-two shillings each,^^ and 
a diversity of Asiatic and European coins whose 
very names are now forgotten. ^^ At some treasuries 
cowries were taken, at others they were not,^*^ Some 
collectors accepted payment In gold ; others refused 
it ; others, again, could not make up their minds 
either way;^^ and the miserable peasant never knew 
whether the coin for which he sold his crop would 
be of any use to him when he came to pay his 

Notwithstanding the oppressive precautions ob- 
served In receiving coins at the treasury, the number 

81 Calcutta Gazette of ist November 1792. The value of the 
viziery rupee was 37 per cent, less than the siccas of Moorshedabad, 
Patna, and Dacca. For list of rupees in use, and their value, see 
Appendix N. 

82 Worth from six shillings and eightpence to eight shillings and 
sixpence, according to the weight and the current rates of exchange. 

83 Calcutta Gazette of 14th January 1790. 

8* Sir James Steuart's Principles of Money applied to Bengal, p. 
26, 4to, 1772. 

85 For a list of coins current in six Indian ports in 1763, see 
Appendix O. 

86 In Sylhet they were taken, and proved very difficult to be got 
rid of. Calcutta Gazette of 6th October 1791. Lives of the Lindsays, 
by Lord Lindsay, iii. 170. In Beerbhoom they were not received. 
B. R. R. 

s'' Mr. Keating, shortly after his arrival, was offered gold in 
payment of the land-tax, and on referring the matter to the Board, 
obtained its sanction to receive gold coins. Letter from Collector to 
John Shore, President, and members of the Board of Revenue, dated 
nth April 1789, with reply thereto. On the other hand, there is a 
petition 'by several respectable mercantile gentlemen requesting 
orders for the free currency of gold in payment of the revenues, 
referred to in the Calcutta Gazette of Thursday, 17th April 1788. 
B. R. R. and I. O. L. 


of bad rupees which found their way into the remit- 
tances sounds incredible at the present day. In 
one small remittance of 40,738 rupees (^41,000), no 
fewer than 738 were reported to have * turned out 
bad.'^^ At present the bad rupees do not average 
five in a remittance of one hundred thousand. The 
coin in circulation, moreover, was insufficient for the 
commerce of the country, and Government compli- 
cated the evil by injudicious interference. It attri- 
buted the scarcity of coin, according to the fashion 
of the day, to ' tricks in raising the batta {i. e. ex- 
change),' * to the extortion of usurers,' ' to a combina- 
tion of moneyed harpies ;'^^ in short, to every reason 
but the true one — namely, the inadequacy of the 
coinage to carry on the trade of the province. A 
fourfold currency — gold, silver, copper, and notes — 
had gradually been introduced, without a single pro- 
vision to guard against the difficulties to which such 
a state of things gives rise. Of arbitrary regulation, 
however, there was no lack. The Government from 
time to time blindly fixed the price of bullion, and 
the incipient Anglo-Indian press not less blindly 
supported the measure. A committee of inquiry 
sat ; it need scarcly be added, without in any way 
mending matters. ' The discount on gold mohurs,' 
wrote the editor of the Calcutta Gazette in 1788, 
' still continues enormously high, to the ruinous dis- 
tress of the poor, and to the great inconvenience of 

®^ Letter from J. E. Harrington, Esq., Collector of Moorshedabad, 
to C. Keating, Esq., Collector of Beerbhoom, dated 27th September 
1790. B, R. R. 

^^ Calcutta Gazettes of 28th February, loth April 1788, etc. I. O. L. 


the economical householder. The continuance of 
this evil, much more the increase of it, after the 
large imports of silver into Calcutta from Burdwan 
and other districts, evidently proves it is owing to a 
combination of moneyed harpies. Should they per- 
severe till the commencement of the next sessions, 
it is anxiously to be hoped they will be called to 
account for their illegal practices before a jury of 
their fellow-citizens, and will experience the utmost 
severity of the law, which prohibits and punishes 
the engrossment of any article for the advance- 
ment of its price. Coined silver is an article that 
admits of precise determination of its proper value, 
and the engrossment and enhancement of it may 
easily be brought to specific proof.' ' It is seriously 
to be hoped,' he continued, a fortnight later, ' that 
some effectual measures will be taken to put a stop 
to the progress of this evil, so severely felt by the 
community at large ; otherwise trade must sink 
under usury.' But at the very time at which the 
aid of the courts was most loudly invoked, the 
Legislature had omitted to make any provision for 
preserving the purity of the coin. The Anglo- 
Indian community clamoured for penal restrictions 
and interference to a degree far beyond that which 
the law can successfully exercise, while the Anglo- 
Indian Government had not enabled the courts to 
perform a duty which they could easily have 
accomplished. Sir William Dunkins, in charging 
the grand jury of Calcutta,^" regrets that clipping, 

^0 Calcutta Gazette of i8th June 1795. I. O. L. 


counterfeiting, and similar offences against the coin 
could not be dealt with more seriously than as cases 
of simple cheating. 

The debasement and inadequacy of the rural 
coinage proceeded from two sets of causes ; one of 
which had been at work before the English had 
anything to do with Bengal, the other resulting 
from their injudicious but well-meant efforts at cur- 
rency reform. The Mussulmans recognised only 
one circulatinor medium — to wit, silver. Gold coins 
were struck, but they ' were left to seek their own 
value. '^^ In short, gold was treated as bullion, 
and the stamped pieces called mohurs circulated 
at various prices, according to the current price of 
the metal. The weight and fineness of the Delhi 
mohurs was uniform, being of the same weight and 
fineness as the silver rupee ; but a Delhi mohur 
sometimes sold for twelve, sometimes for thirteen, 
fourteen, or fifteen sicca rupees. ^^ In the same way, 
copper coins, when transferred in large quantities, 
were and are to the present day sold ; that is to 
say, they do not pass at their full denominational 
value, but at a lower rate, the proportion deducted 
depending on the locality, and the comparative 
demand for silver or copper coins. Indeed, the 
tendency of copper coins to accumulate in the dis- 
trict treasuries still forms a subject of frequent 
official correspondence, and a percentage is in some 

^^ Sir James Steuart's Principles of Money applied to Bengal, 
p. 25, 4to, 1772. 
»2 Id. p. 26. 



places allowed to the collectors of the assessed 
taxes — such as the municipal police — for convert- 
ing the petty copper payments into rupees. 

The silver currency, therefore, was the only cir- 
culating medium which native governments steadily 
endeavoured to regulate, and even in these efforts 
they did not succeed.^^ In the first place, there was 
a number of mints, none of which honestly adhered 
to the same standard, and many of which did not 
even pretend to do so. One of the most cherished 
insignia of sovereignty was the striking of coin ; 
and little potentates who in every other respect 
acknowledged allegiance to Delhi, maintained their 
independent right of coining. As it was the last 
privilege to which fallen dynasties clung, so it was 
the first to which adventurers rising into power 
aspired. While the Mahrattas were still mountain 
robbers they set up a mint; and in 1685 the East 
India Company, at a period when it had only a 
few houses and gardens in Benral, intriofued for 
the dignity of striking its own coin. The silver 
pieces thus produced passed from province to pro- 
vince in the hands of wandering merchants, or in 
payment of tribute, and it became necessary to fix 
some ideal standard by which to calculate their 
value.^* No two mints uniformly struck rupees of 

^^ The standard weight of a rupee was theoretically one sicca, 
equal to I79'55ii grains troy; the standard fineness was -{^^ pure 

^■* The Mussulmans in Turkey resorted to practically the same 
expedient, and for the same reasons. See an excellent series of Essais 
sur I'Histoire Economique de la Turquic, par M. Belin, Secretaire- 
Interprete de I'Empereur k Constantinople. Imperial Press, 1865. 


the same weight and fineness ; indeed, very few 
mints invariably adhered even to their own nomi- 
nal standard, and after the coin reached the public 
it was subjected to every species of debasement. 
The actual coin at any single mint, therefore, could 
not be selected as the standard, for no mint could 
be trusted, and whatever could be handled was sure 
to be falsified. An ideal coin was accordingly in- 
vented, by which all rupees might be valued, and 
one of the Company's earliest and soundest financial 
advisers has left on record the process. ' When a 
sum of rupees is brought to a shroff (banker or 
money-changer), he examines them piece by piece, 
ranges them according to their fineness, then by 
their weight. Then he allows for the different 
legal battas (deductions) upon siccas and sunats ; 
and this done, he values in gross by the current 
rupee what the whole quantity is worth. The 
rttpee cui^rent, therefore, is the only coin fixed by 
which coin is at present valued ; and the reason is, 
because it is not a coin itself, and therefore can 
never be falsified or worn.'^^ 

This process, though simple and no doubt pro- 
fitable to a banker or treasury officer, was impossible 
to the poor peasant. The whole rural population 
had to receive payment for their crops in coins 
whose value they did not understand, and then to 
pay away these coins for rent and taxes according 
to a calculation which they could not comprehend. 

^^ Sir James Steuart's Principles of Money applied to Bengal, 
p. 17, 4to, 1772. 


We can now appreciate the feelings of almost per- 
sonal gratitude with which the husbandmen of India 
long remembered Todar Mai, a financier who, while 
he raised the revenues, authoritatively re-enacted 
the option of paying them in kind. 

Such was the state of affairs when the East 
India Company received charge of Lower Bengal. 
The number of coins in its treasure-chests affarded 
no index of its financial position ; and although it 
got over this difficulty to a certain extent by keeping 
its accounts in current rupees, the work of convert- 
ing the actual coinage into the ideal standard, proved 
too laborious to be very accurately performed. Set- 
ting aside the multitudinous differences of weight, 
hardly two remittances a year were made in coin of 
the same fineness. Of twenty-eight large payments, 
of which we have an accurate record,^^ between 1 764 
and 1 769 inclusive, only three were in rupees of 
standard purity ; and before the value of the other 
twenty-five could be ascertained, it was necessary to 
melt them down, weigh, and assay them. The 
obvious remedy was to call in the old currency, 
issuing in place of it a new coinage of fixed weight 
and purity ; and on this important duty the first 
English governors of Bengal went heartily to work. 
But presently they discovered that the remedy 
was by no means so obvious or easy as they had 
supposed. Recoinage cost a heavy percentage ; and 
people would net bring their debased coin to the 

9'' Sir James Steuart's Principles of Money applied to Bengal, pp. 


mint when they found that they got back barely 
three-fifths of what they gave in. Partly from this 
reason, and partly from delay in re-issuing the 
rupees, the province found itself drained of its cur- 
rency. Business came to a stand : the richest mer- 
chants could obtain no circulatingr medium with which 
to purchase goods for their traffic, and no one would 
sell on credit, well knowing that, when the time of 
payment came, no coin would be forthcoming. To 
meet this emergency, the Council in Calcutta deter- 
mined to issue a gold currency, which should pass 
not merely for its equivalent in silver at the market 
rates, but as a distinct medium of circulation, each 
piece having a fixed denomination of value. The 
Council, however, not having the requisite bullion 
to start with, tried to induce the people to bring 
their gold for coinage, by attaching an arbitrary 
value to the new gold mohurs. According to law, 
each piece was to pass at a rate which exceeded by 
\']\ per cent, its market value in silver. Crowds 
besieged the mint with ingots to be manufactured 
into these profitable coins ; but the more gold 
mohurs the Council issued, the greater the scarcity 
in the currency, for some unaccountable reason, be- 
came. Not till six years afterwards was the mys- 
tery explained. The ' encouragement ' given to 
gold simply meant discouragement to silver. The 
Council, by fixing the value of the new coins at 
arbitrary rates, had rendered it 1 7| per cent, more 
profitable to make payments in gold ; but it had 
only done so by rendering it i 7I per cent, less pro- 


fitable to pay in silver. The gains of the fortunate 
few who held gold had to be paid a thousand-fold 
by the unfortunate many who held silver. The 
latter refused to make payments in a currency that 
had thus been depreciated 171 per cent, and sent 
it abroad either in exchange for gold, or for pur- 
poses of trade. The East India Company itself, in 
its mercantile capacity, carried a quarter of a million 
sterling per annum out of Bengal to China ;'^^ 
Madras constantly required specie from Bengal to 
purchase its investment ; and Bombay, which did 
not pay the expense of government, had to be sup- 
plied from the same source.'^^ In the years following 
this memorable exjDeriment, the Council constantly 
complain that while no currency existed with which 
to carry on internal commerce, the exportation of 
silver went on upon an unprecedented scale. 

Another influence presently began to intensify 
the evil. India had always depended on its foreign 
trade for a supply of the precious metals. It ab- 
sorbed vast quantities of silver for jewellery and 
domestic ornaments ; and Romans, Venetians, Por- 

^'' Sir James Steuart, pp. 26, 32, 57, etc. I. O. L. 

^^ Bengal from the very first seems to have been the milch cow 
from which the other Presidencies drew their support. A hundred 
references to the Indian records and papers of the last century might 
be given. For example, letters from the President and Council of 
Bengal to the Court of Directors, dated the 25th August 1770, paras. 
26 and 30 ; the 9th March 1772, para. 22, in which the Council com- 
plain that the Bengal treasuries are completely emptied by sending 
coin to the other Presidencies ; Hicky's Bengal Gazette, 29th April 
1780, with innumerable notices in the Calcutta Gazette, 1784-1804. 
I. O. R., C. O. R., and I. O. L. Cf. also Mr. Marshman's History- of 
India, i. p. 283 (in 1758), and p. 328 (in 1767). Longmans, 1867. 


tuguese, Dutch, and English, had each in turn 
lamented the exportation of their national currency 
in exchange for oriental luxuries. During the 
seventeenth century a single harbour of Western 
India — Surat — received, by the way of the Persian 
Gulf alone, half a million sterling per annum in 
specie. The quantity of bullion which the trade 
carried out of England long formed a most tren- 
chant weapon in the hands of the opponents of the 
East India Company. Its amount was regulated by 
Parliament, and loudly deplored by patriotic pam- 
phleteers. Until the middle of the last century, the 
Company's business consisted in sending silver from 
England, and bringing back Indian produce in ex- 
change ; but in 1765, when the revenues of Lower 
Bengal passed into its hands, it found itself pos- 
sessed of an annual surplus large enough to do 
away with the necessity of importing specie for the 
purchase of its investment.^'' If a district yielded, 
as in the case of Beerbhoom, ;^90,ooo of revenue, 
the Council took care that not more than .^^5000 or 
;!^6ooo were spent in governing it. From the re- 
mainder, ten thousand pounds or so were deducted 
for general civil expenses, ten thousand more for the 
maintenance of the army, and the surplus of say 
^60,000 was invested in silks, muslins, cotton cloths, 
and other articles, to be sold by the authorities in 
Leadenhall Street. In short, the revenues of 
Bengal supplied the means of providing the invest- 
ment in Bengal, and so the annual influx of specie 

"'•^ Sir James Steuart, p. 56. 


ceased, while the consumption of the precious metals 
went on as before. It was this annual influx alone 
that had enabled the province to bear up against 
the heavy annual drain on its currency ; and we are 
assured that without it even the tribute to Delhi, 
not to speak of the yearly supply of bullion to the 
Company's factors in China, Madras, and Bombay, 
could not have been sustained. Mandeville, writing 
in 1750, states that the payment of the Emperor's 
revenue * sweeps away almost all the silver, coined 
or uncoined, which comes into Bengal. It goes to 
Delhi, from whence it never returns to (Lower) 
Bengal ; so that after such treasure is gone from 
Muxadavad (Moorshedabad), there is hardly cur- 
rency enough left in Bengal to carry on any trade, 
or even to go to market for provisions and neces- 
saries of life, till the next shipping arrives to bring a 
fresh supply of silver. '^*^'^ 

In 1765, therefore, these fresh supplies came to 
an end. The gold coinage, devised to supply the 
deficiency in 1 766, only made matters worse. Dur- 
ing the two following years internal traffic ceased, 
and the whole population, English and native, at 
length implored the Government to move one way 
or another in the matter. ' At present the distress 
is so great,' wrote the English inhabitants in 1 769, 
* that every merchant in Calcutta is in danger of 
becoming bankrupt, or running a risk of ruin by 
attachments on his goods.' ' There remains not sufff- 

i"" Letter dated 27th November 1750, printed by the Company in 
1771. Financial Resolution of the 20th March 1769, etc. 
VOL. I. U 


cie'nt (currency) for the occasions and intercourse of 
commerce. . . . The fair and honest dealer is every 
day prosecuted to judgment in the court without 
remedy, from the impossibihty of obtaining pay- 
ment from his debtors. ... He is thus urged by 
his necessity to involve himself in expensive suits ; 
he is forced to defend, in order to gain time, though 
sensible of the justice, and desirous to pay the de- 
mand ; and he is driven to a hasty prosecution, in 
hopes to recover before judgment passeth against 
himself, though fully convinced of his debtor's wil- 
lingness to pay as soon as he is able. His substance 
in this manner is wasted, and the distress which 
follows is too obvious and moving to need descrip- 
tion.'^°^ The ' Humble Petition of the Armenian 
Merchants settled in Calcutta ' puts the case even 
more forcibly : ' The necessity of coin now felt in 
this capital, amongst the many intolerable evils 
arising from it, affects every individual to that de- 
gree, that the best houses, with magazines full of 
goods, are distressed for daily provisions ; and that 
not only a general bankruptcy is to be feared, but a 
real famine, in the midst of wealth and plenty.' 

The English merchants proposed, by way of 
remedy, to prosecute all who held silver, and would 
not give it in exchange for the gold coins at rates 
fixed by law. The Armenians took a deeper view. 
They perceived the existence of a real deficiency 

^•^^ Petition of the Mayor's Court of Calcutta to the Honourable 
Harry Verelst, dated Town Hall, 14th March 1769, signed 'John 
Holmes, Registrar.' Quoted from the Calcutta Review, xxxv. 29. 


which legislation could not reach, and recommended 
that the bullion in the country should be utilized by- 
being coined. Silver was not to be had, but many 
capitalists held gold ; and they proposed a general 
coinage of the latter metal into pieces varying from 
eight shillings to £\, 12s. sterling, not on the ground 
that such a currency would be in itself a convenient 
one, but because ' any coin whatever is better than 
no coin at all.'^^^ 

The Honourable Harry Verelst took the advice 
of these very sensible Armenian gentlemen. ' Upon 
a strict and impartial inquiry,' he wrote, ' we find 
that this scarcity of specie, so severely felt by the 
merchants here, is not an accidental or fictitious one, 
nor confined to Calcutta alone, but that the same 
indigence is spread over the whole country.' He 
goes on to express an apprehension, ' that either the 
revenue must fall short, or be collected in kind, from 
a want of sufficient currency ;' and concludes by 
ordering a second gold coinage. But the English 
governors of Bengal did not at that period possess 
the data on which to base a successful currency re- 
form ; and although Mr. Verelst avoided the mis- 
take of fixing the legal denomination of the new 
coins so egregiously above their market value as in 
1766, he still overrated them by 5^ per cent. The 
events of 1766, therefore, repeated themselves in a 
mitigated shape. At first the people very gladly 
brought their bullion to undergo the profitable pro- 

^'*2 The Armenian^ Petition of 1769, quoted from the Calcutla 
Review, xxxv. 28. 


cess of coinage ; and the Council congratulated 
themselves on the success of their experiment. But 
presently the public began to find out that, while the 
value of gold mohurs had been artificially enhanced 
5:^ per cent, the value of rupees had been depre- 
ciated to an equal degree. They therefore with- 
drew the last remnant of their silver from circula- 
tion ; and the driblet of gold coins that issued from 
the mint proved wholly inadequate to take the place 
of the national currency. Indeed, the native bankers, 
having learned wisdom from the losses of 1 766, de- 
termined to be beforehand with the Government 
this time, and refused to advance sums in silver 
which might be repaid a few months later in gold 
coins bearine a fictitious value. Before the end of 
the year the Council found their treasury empty, 
and complained that the merchants had deserted 
their trade, and were ' locking up their fortunes in 
their treasure-chests.'^*'^ 

Even those who held gold soon began to dis- 
trust the Company's efforts at a gold coinage. 
According to the regulations of 1766, a mohur 
containing 1 49*7 2 grains of pure gold passed for 
fourteen rupees, or at the rate of 10*694 grains to 
the rupee ; according to the regulations of 1 769, 
the mohur contained 190*086 grains of pure gold, 
and passed for sixteen rupees, or at the rate of 
11*88 grains to the rupee. Native money-changers 
speedily detected this, and became afraid to have 

^"^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors, 
dated 25th September 1769, para. 39. I. O. R. 

THE CURRENCY, 1 769-1 789. 309 

anything to do with the Company's mint. They 
knew that they could always get the market value 
of their gold as bullion, but it was impossible to say 
what liberty the English gentlemen might next be 
pleased to take with the coin. 

It requires a strong effort of the imagination to 
realize the miseries of the next twenty years. The 
great famine of 1769, as the Directors have pathe- 
tically recorded, seemed to put a finishing stroke 
to the sufferings of the people, and the history of 
rural Bengal becomes a narrative of severities for 
wringing a constantly increasing revenue out of a 
starved and depopulated province. Warren Hast- 
ings created a security for person and property, 
such as had never been enjoyed since the Mussul- 
man despoilers rolled down on Hindusthan. He 
framed equal laws, and he did his best to bring 
them within the reach of the people. He under- 
stood the Bengalis thoroughly, aided every effort 
to investigate their wants or to interpret their 
character, was munificent exactly at the time and 
in the manner to win their admiration, and dis- 
played in all his public appearances that prompt, 
unerring audacity, so well calculated to overawe a 
race whom long oppression had stripped of self- 
respect. More than this, Warren Hastings really 
loved the natives, and the natives in return loved 
and respected him as they have loved and respected 
no Englishman before or after. He was a true 
Asiatic prince of the best type ; a man who a cen- 
tury earlier might have built up an independent 


^ empire that would have held together under twenty 
\ feeble successors. But in matters touching the 
I revenues he had a heart of stone. Menaced by 
/ the potentates of Hindusthan, all but overwhelmed 
/ by the Mahrattas, plotted against by powerful 
I Hindu subjects, harassed by mutinous troops, 
I bearded by his own coadjutors in council, he felt 
I that his one source of streno-th was the command 
I of money. Money alone would keep up his in- 
I terest with the Court of Directors at home ; money 
I alone would maintain their sovereignty in Bengal ; 
I and any degree of fiscal severity seemed to him a 
I cheap price to pay for the peace and security of all 
% India. It could not be expected that a governor in 
I his position would complicate matters still further 
I by currency measures which, however salutary in 
I the end, might occasion panic and confusion during 
I their progress. From time to time, when accident 
\ brought home to him the misery caused by the 
I debased and insufficient coinage, he devised some 
temporary palliative ; but the only substantial re- 
form which he carried through was the work of his 
first year of office. 

Under native governments the mint formed a 
source of revenue, ^"^ a heavy royalty was habitually 
levied ; and, when occasion demanded, the bullion 
brought to the officers for coinage was debased. In 
order to give the mint work, an iniquitous system 
had been devised to force the people to have the 

^"■^ Sir James Steuart's Principles of Money applied to the Present 
State of the Coin in Bengal, p. 3, 4to, 1772. 

THE MINT REFORM Oi^ 1 7 7 3. 311 

whole currency recolned every year. For each year 
that had elapsed since the date stamped upon the 
coin, a heavy percentage was deducted, irrespective 
of actual deterioration. For example : a rupee that 
had been in use a year lost three per cent, of its 
value ; after it had circulated two years it lost five 
per cent., and this, too, although it had suffered 
no change in weight or purity. To escape these 
deductions, capitalists presented their coined silver 
before the end of each year or second year, and 
so the mints drove a flourishing business at the 
expense of the people. As early as 1771 the 
Bengal Council had pointed out the remedy for 
this,^*^^ but under Mr. Cartier's feeble reign nothing 
ever received practical effect. In 1773 Warren 
Hastings, with his wonted contempt for half mea- 
sures, struck at the root of the evil. He enacted 
that no deduction should be made from a coin, how- 
ever long it might have been in circulation, unless 
really deteriorated ; and in order to ensure obedi- 
ence, he commanded that all future issues should 
bear one date, that of 1773, or as the legend runs 
on the rupees, * the 1 9th year of the auspicious 
reign ' of Shah Alam. This was the first step the 
Company had taken in the right direction, and it 
gave rise to so many disputes that Warren Hast- 
ings did not venture on another. The sufferings 
of the people are graven deep on every record of 
those days ; and it is impossible to turn over a few 
pages of any public print, without coming upon 

"5 Letter to the Court of Directors, dated the 30th August 177 1. 


irrepressible evidence of the ruin and distrust be- 
tween man and man occasioned by the debased 
currency. To cite only two instances from the first 
Calcutta paper. In May 1780 we are told that all 
the shops in the principal city of South-western 
Bengal remained shut for several days, on account 
of a dispute about the value of the sicca rupee/'^^ 
and only reopened when the authorities yielded to 
the popular view. Not long afterwards ' Honestus ' 
complains that the trade of Patna, the mercantile 
capital of Central Bengal, had entirely decayed, 
owing to the ruinous and constantly fluctuating 
exchange between the local and the statutory coin- 

To such straits had a debased currency brought 
commerce, when in 1 786 Lord Cornwallis received 
charge of the province. During his first three 
years of office, judicial and fiscal reforms de- 
manded his whole energies ; and in spite of the 
clamours of the Calcutta newspaper, and of more 
touching appeals from the rural population, he did 
not dare to meddle with the coinage. But he had 
in John Shore an adviser who thoroughly under- 
stood the magnitude of the evil, and before the end 
of 1789 the two friends had devised a plan for 
eradicating it once and for all. Suddenly an order 
issued depriving the treasury officers of any discre- 
tion in taking or rejecting coins on the ground of 
short weight. If a rupee was the genuine product 

10" Hicky's Bengal Gazette of the 20th May 1780. 
^o'' Id. of the 16th September 1780. 

CURRENC V REFORMS Ci^ 1 7 90. 313 

of a recognised mint, no matter to what extent it 
had been cHpped or drilled, the treasury officers 
were to receive it by weight according to fixed rates 
hung up in the collector's office. This single stroke 
put an end to the indefinite and arbitrary discount 
which the provincial treasurers had from time 
immemorial exacted on all coin except siccas of 
the current year. Before they had recovered their 
consternation another order arrived, rendering them 
responsible not merely for the net sums received, 
but for the actual coin in which it was paid. This 
completed their ruin. Many of them had invested 
a fortune in bribing their way up to the post of 
treasurer, — a post which in those days yielded a 
salary of £\o per annum, and an opportunity of 
making ^4000 more. Besides ' playing with the 
deposits,' varying from ^5000 to ^30,000, the 
treasurers had always enjoyed the privilege of 
deducting what allowance they pleased from each 
coin when they received it, and then of returning it 
to circulation, as payment for the mercantile invest- 
ment, at rates fixed by themselves. But now these 
profitable operations came abruptly to an end. Lord 
Cornwallis divided the currency into two classes : 
the first consisting of the statutory coinage, to be 
taken at its full legal denomination ; the second or 
deteriorated sort, to be received at the published 
rates, and sent off at the end of each month to 
Calcutta. The mere fact of some deduction re- 
quiring to be made from the nominal value of a 
rupee, he accepted as conclusive proof of its unfit- 


ness to be returned to circulation, and commanded 
in every such case that the treasury officers should 
specify the rates at which they received the coin in 
an invoice to be forwarded along with the coin 
itself, to the Presidency mint.^**^ 

The treasury officers grumbled, shirked, dis- 
obeyed. In his first ardour for reform, Warren 
Hastings had issued a similar order, and they had 
managed to evade it. But they were now to 
learn the difference between a spasmodic although 
talented autocracy, and the persistent watchfulness 
of a well-organized central Government. During 
four years Lord Cornwallis had been painfully con- 
structino- that series of checks and counter-checks 
on the local officials which still forms a distin- 
guishing feature of the Indian administration. 
Before the end of 1789 he held lists of the names 
of all natives in the Government employ,^*'^ and the 
rebellious treasurers found themselves suddenly 
entangled in a net of artfully-contrived statements, 
vouchers, and monthly returns. The slightest 
touch of his Lordship's finger crushed where it fell, 
and John Shore had taught him a sure method of 
reaching the delinquents. He seldom condescended 
to make any reference to the treasurers themselves ; 
but he visited the Eno-lish collector of the district 
with unsparing fines for the offences of his subor- 

108 Order of the 23d June 1790, forwarded with a letter from the 
Board of Revenue to the Collector of Beerbhoom, dated the 30th id.^ 
etc. B. R. R. 

109 From the same to the same, dated 7th April 1789. Regula- 
tions of the 8th June 1787, Art. 18. B. R. R. and C. O. R. 


dinates — offences which that officer had hitherto 
either winked at or regarded with indifference. 
Even Mr. Keatlng's fiscal ardour failed to avert 
these penalties ; and when Lord Cornwallis found 
the treasurers trifling with his currency reform, he 
extended the system of fines, which had formerly 
applied only to unpunctuallty In transmitting trea- 
sure, to every Irregularity in despatching accounts 
or returns, and to every defect in their form."" For 
these mulcts and indignities the collectors took 
ample vengeance on the native subordinate whose 
delinquency had caused them, and the monthly 
transmission of depreciated coins soon became a 
matter of undisputed routine. 

But though all resistance on the part of the 
treasurers was over, another and far more serious 
struggle had commenced. The debased coinage 
formed two-thirds of the provincial currency, and the 
very success of the measure for calling it- in denuded 
the rural population of the means of purchasing the 
necessaries of life. The prices of local produce 
sank to nominal rates, not because grain was really 
cheap, but because money was dear ; and the village 
usurers, demanding a settlement of accounts as 
usual at harvest-time, received the husbandman's 
whole crops in return for a pound or thirty shillings 
advanced to him in spring. In the large towns, where 
the statutory coinage more abounded, the calling in 
of the debased rupees occasioned hardly any drain, 

"f Circular of the Board of Revenue, dated 20th September 1790. 
B. R. R. 


and did not affect prices. The corn-dealers there- 
fore bought up the whole grain of the country at 
the nominal rates prevailing in the rural parts, in 
order to sell it or export it at the prices prevailing 
in the cities ; and the miserable peasantry, after 
reaping a good harvest, found themselves in the 
midst of a famine. 

The urgent necessity for funds to prosecute the 
war against Tippoo intensified the distress. All 
the bad coin was swept off to Calcutta to be melted, 
while all the good coin was swept off to Calcutta for 
exportation to Madras. The triumph of the trea- 
sury officers seemed at hand ; for no Government 
would dare, they argued, to strip the country entirely 
of its coin, and the currency reform of 1790 would 
end as the currency reform of 1772 had ended — by 
first causing a great deal of misery, and then being 
abandoned. For a moment the fate of the measure 
did indeed tremble in the balance. The crisis found 
Lord Cornwallis involved in changes that had un- 
settled the whole judicial and fiscal administration ; 
a war which threatened the very existence of the 
Engrllsh in India rag-ed in Madras ; a real famine 
was depopulating the Deccan ; and would he now 
persist in creating an artificial famine In the one 
province which remained unscathed ? But Lord 
Cornwallis considered that, after all, it was but a 
choice between two great evils. The suffering 
caused by the measure had far exceeded his worst 
apprehensions ; but that suftering was now half 
over, and to yield would be to return for an inde- 

CURRENCY CRISIS OF 1790-91. 317 

finite period to the miseries of a debased currency. 
Besides, the suffering incident to the reform would 
all have to be endured over again. Fortified by 
these considerations, Lord Cornwallis turned a 
mercifully deaf ear to the cries of the people. 

The winter of 1790-91 passed, but brought no 
relief to Bengal. Before calling in the debased 
currency, the Government had made provision for 
returning the specie when recoined, but somehow 
the new rupees did not reach the hands of the 
people. The old Calcutta mint was set vigorously 
to work, new mints were established at the three 
great provincial centres,^^^ and the head of each dis- 
trict received orders to take all coins that mieht be 
offered to them at the local market rates, giving 
back statutory rupees in payment.^^^ At first the 
people readily brought their debased currency to be 
exchanged for the new coinage ; but the collectors 
presently found their supply of legal rupees ex- 
hausted, and had either to refuse to receive the 
local currency, or else to take it on credit. Then 
came the pressing expenses of war, and the orders, 
peremptorily repeated, to suspend all payments from 
the district treasuries, except the diet allowance for 
the prisoners, and the rewards for killing tigers.^^^ 
The poor people had given in their little hoards of 

^1^ Dacca, Moorshedabad, Patna. 

112 Circular Order of the Board of Revenue, dated 2d August 1790. 
B. R. R. 

^13 Letters from the Accountant-General to the Collector, dated 
15th November, 29th December 1790, and 28th January 1791. In 
salt or opium districts these articles were also excepted. B. R. R. 


old rupees ; when they asked for new ones in re- 
turn, the collectors with much shamefacedness had 
to tell them that all disbursements were stopped. 

On the I St of January 1791 a hopeful but mo- 
mentary gleam flashed across the political sky. The 
cumbrous, slow-working process of melting, assay- 
ing", and recoininof had at last some visible results 
to show, and on the first day of the year an issue 
of ' new-milled rupees ' took place simultaneously at 
the four mints. But the good news had scarcely 
reached the rural parts before another order came, 
more rigidly enforcing the suspension of disburse- 
ments from the district treasuries, and the people 
had the satisfaction of learning that their old rupees 
had been recoined only to be exported for war 
exiofencies to Madras. 

But early in spring the pressure, in an unac- 
countable manner, became lighter. The truth is, 
that the crops which the village bankers and corn- 
dealers had sent to the cities in December, or ex- 
ported to Madras, were now paid for, and the price 
was flowing back to the districts in the shape of 
' new-milled rupees.' The winter grain trade had 
realized unusual profits, and the rural cajDitalists had 
therefore an unusual quantity of money to lend. 
The borrowing classes profited accordingly, and 
every one who wanted an advance on his spring 
crops could get it. The crisis was in truth at an 
end ; the calm resolution of the ereat Enoflish chief 
had conquered both in the Council and the field: a 
temporary loan at 1 2 per cent, rapidly filled up, the 



local treasuries resumed payment, and the village 
elders, as they calmly sucked their hookas, began 
to question whether, after all, the Company's sway 
had really come to an end. 

By this time Lord Cornwallis was at the head 
of the British army ; but from under his tent in the 
southernmost corner of India, daily proofs of his 
persistent watchfulness shot forth to every extremity 
of Beno;al. He had indeed obtained the highest 
administrative triumph. He had first constructed 
his executive machinery, and then breathed so much 
of his own vitality into it as to render it independent 
of himself. The able and conscientious men to 
whom he had entrusted the Currency Reform, no 
sooner felt the country a little eased, than they pro- 
ceeded to measures to which the whole traditions 
of the Company's government in India were op- 
posed. Its first financial experiment had been to 
affix a legal value to gold, with what results we 
already know ; and Lord Cornwallis, clearly perceiv- 
ing that the unregulated double currency lay at the 
root of half the commercial distress, had put a stop 
to the coinage of gold pieces in 1 788 as an indispens- 
able preliminary to his reforms.^^^ During the terrible 
pressure of 1 790 he had yielded so far, however, as 
to endeavour to relieve the drain on the silver cur- 
rency by resuming for a time the coinage of gold 
mohurs;^^^ but before the close of 1791 this pres- 

1" Order of the 3d December 1788. 

1^^ Order dated 21st July 1790, communicated in Board of Re- 
venue's letter to the Collector, dated 23d id. B. R. R. 


sure had exhausted itself, and Lord Cornwallis de- 
termined by one bold stroke to get rid, once and 
for all, of the perils of a twofold medium of circu- 
lation. One governor after another had failed in 
his attempts to make a double currency work 
harmoniously. The public was again pressing for 
further regulations and penal enactments on the 
subject, when a proclamation issued doing away 
with every check on the traffic of the precious 
metals, and declaring them ordinary articles of com- 
merce. * Whereas,' ran the document, ' various ap- 
plications have of late been made to the Superin- 
tendent of Police by individuals, in consequence of 
the difficulty which they have experienced in pro- 
curing silver coin, to compel the shroffs (money- 
changers) to furnish silver in exchange for gold 
coin, and to punish them if they attempt in this 
exchange to value the gold mohur at less than what 
appears to have been its former market value : The 
Governor-General in Council has therefore deter- 
mined, that in future the sale of gold and silver coin 
shall be as free and unrestrained in every respect 
as the sale of gold and silver bullion, and the ex- 
changeable value or price of each determined by 
the course of trade, in the same manner as the price 
of every other commodity that comes into the 
market.' ^^^ 

After a year's trial of the new system. Lord 

11^ Dated Fort-William, Public Department, i8th November 1791, 
signed E. Hay, Secretary to the Government, and published in ex- 
tenso in the Calcutta Gazette of ist December 1791. 


Cornwallis decided that the time had come to get 
rid of the old defaced coinage by compulsory mea- 
sures, ^^'' The public had been allowed ample op- 
portunity to change its old coin for new ' without 
any charge whatever ;' and he now ordered that after 
the first day of the Bengali year 1200 (loth April 
1794 A.D.) the full coinage should be the only legal 
tender, and that ' no person should be permitted to 
recover ' in the courts ' any sum of money under a 
bond or other writing, by which any species of 
rupees, excepting the sicca rupees of the 1 9th sun,^^^ 
is stipulated to be paid.' In 1794 another twelve- 
month's grace was given,^^^ but the year 1795 saw the^ 
long-deferred triumph of the one strong will. The 
new and uniform currency had at last completely 
ousted the multitudinous, battered, and debased 
rupees which had so long afflicted the people. 

In adopting the principle of non-interference. 
Lord Cornwallis displayed a self-taught knowledge 
of the science of finance, which England did not 
attain till a quarter of a century later, and which 
several European countries have yet to learn. Not 
till 1 8 19 did Parliament do away with the restric- 
tions on the foreign trade in bullion ;^^° and up to 
a few years of the time when the isolated Indian 

11'' Declaration dated Fort-William, Public Department, 24th 
October 1792, signed J. L. Chauvet, Sub-Secretary, published in cx- 
tenso in the Calcutta Gazette of ist November 1792. 

11^ I.e. Rupees struck by the Company, whose dies uniformly bore 
the 19th year, 'sun,' of the Emperor Shah Alam's reign, equivalent 
to A.D. 1772, for reasons previously stated. 

11^ Proclamation dated 28th June 1794. 

120 59 Geo. III. c. 49. 

VOL. I. X 


statesman carried out his reforms, the Louis d'or 
continued to be rated at a nominal value by the 
French mint, to the stoppage of trade, and even- 
tually to the complete banishment of gold from the 

From these measures — which, so far as I am 
aware, have hitherto found no historian — the com- 
mercial development of rural Bengal dates. The 
Indian coinage remains substantially as Lord Corn- 
wallis left it ; silver being the standard medium of 
circulation, and gold, whether in the shape of mohurs 
or of the recently introduced sovereigns, passing as 
bullion at variable rates. But with the coinage un- 
altered, the currency has undergone a great change. 
Mr. James Wilson did for India under the Crown 
what Lord Cornwallis in his financial capacity did 
for India under the Company : he rendered the 
circulating medium equal to the demands upon it. 
To Mr. Wilson's paper currency rural Bengal owes 
the means by which she has been enabled, without 
panic or even inconvenience, to hurry along that 
career of productive energy which has been opened 
up to her during the last ten years. 

Next to Mr. K eating's duties as collector of the 
revenues and Government banker, were his func- 
tions as judicial and magisterial head of the district. 
These last, however, seem to have given him 
but little trouble. So long as the banditti did not 
actually depopulate the country, and thereby dis- 
turb the collection of the land-tax, he had no busi- 

^21 Traits de rEconomie Politique, par M. Say, tome i. p. 393. 


ness to interfere ; when their depredations reached 
this point, he sent out troops against them. We 
have seen how energetic and successful he proved 
himself in the latter operation ; but it is impossible 
not to perceive that the Company's servants, or at 
least the undistinguished mass of them — and to this 
class Mr. Keating belongs — interpreted their duties 
entirely from a fiscal point of view. Mr. Keating's 
ablest reports on the police are written not in his 
magisterial capacity, but as collector. His fears are 
not for the security of the subject, but for the reali- 
zation of the land-tax. It was not a part of his duty 
to protect private property, nor did he attempt to 
do it. His criminal jurisdiction was limited to the 
punishment of petty offenders,^" — a very simple pro- 
cess, not even involving a written sentence ; and in 
the only case he deemed worthy of record— to wit, 
a jail outbreak — the papers disclose him rather as a 
vindictive officer than as a dispassionate judge. 

The police still remained in the hands of the old 
native functionaries ; and, contrasted with its abuses, 
the little imperfections of the fiscal and judicial 
systems vanish. It was divided into two orders ; 
one charged with warding the frontier, the other 
with the internal peace of the district. Relics of 
both survive at the present day, but the first class 
has ceased to do any harm by being stripped of 
its official functions, while the second still remains 
as a plague-spot in the rural administration. The 
frontier police, g/iat-wals, differed very much as to 

^-2 Judicial Regulation, No. xxii. 1-5. 1787. 


social status, but agreed so far as the possession of 
' grants of land situated on the edge of the hilly 
country, and held on condition of guarding the ghats 
or passes. '^^^ They consisted for the most part of 
adventurers from Upper India, Afghans and Raj- 
puts, who were wont to hire out their northern 
vigour and trenchant swords to the aristocracy of 
Lower Bengal. Sometimes they pretended to a 
sacred character, and a curious although not very 
perfect analogy might be drawn between some of 
them and the religious knights of mediaeval Europe. 
Nothing, indeed, overawed the wild frontier tribes so 
effectually as a union of the saint with the warrior, 
and the Persian records of Beerbhoom bear witness 
to the high value which the rajahs set upon a hermit 
ghat-wal. On one occasion the prince, hearing that 
a holy man had come from the north, offered him a 
sum of money along with a tract of forest lands in 
western Beerbhoom, on condition of his guarding 
the passes. The saint replied that he was willing 
to live on the frontier, but that he wanted only as 
much forest as would furnish sticks for his fire, and 
only land enough for a tank in which to perform his 

In the old records the frontier police appear as 
hired soldiers rather than as landholders. Their 
tenure did not amount to a proprietary right in 
the border lands, but only to a right to receive a 

1-3 Decision of the High Court (Calcutta) in re Man Ranjan 
Singh V. Raja Lilanand Singh. 

^2* Referred to in a Persian Ruidad of Ujja Alia Khan, dated 13th 
June 1848. B. R. R. 


certain allowance, to be collected by themselves out 
of the rent of those lands ; and vernacular docu- 
ments speak of them as the deputies^'^^ of the rajah, 
not as his fief-holders. Their appointment, how- 
ever, had a strong tendency to become hereditary ; 
and Mr. Keating, reporting on them in 1790, states 
that * all the existing ghat-zvals have succeeded by 
lineal descent' ^^"^ On being called upon, however, 
to state their rights, only two came forward ; and 
these claimed upon a tenure^" which the courts, 
following the Mohammedan law, had expressly de- 
clared not to be hereditary, and one in which long 
possession cannot make good the original defect in 
title. The British Government, however, always 
willing to construe favourably prescriptive rights, 
while divesting the frontier police of their duties, 
practically allowed them to remain in possession of 
their privileges, though it was not till 18 14 that the 
Legislature defined their rights. ^^^ 

How this border force discharged its duties 
under native rule. Chapter ii. has disclosed. When 
the English assumed charge of the district, they 
found the hill-men free to roam in and out of it at 
pleasure, and during the Company's first attempts 
at internal administration the frontier police appear 
upon the scene only twice ; in the one instance as 

125 E. D. Darkhwast of Lochand Narayan Deo. B. R. R. 

126 Report, dated i8th November 1790. B. R. R. 

127 The tenure of Jaghir. 

128 Regulation xxix. of 18 14. 'A Regulation for the Settlement of 
certain Mehals in the district of Beerbhoom, usually denominated 
the Ghaut-waullee Mehals.' High Court Rulings, etc. 


fugitives from the banditti, in the other as their 

The internal police was administered upon a 
similar plan, and with similar results. The rajah 
divided his territory into sections of very irregular 
size, and placed each under the care of a native 
officer, whose chief business, judging from the re- 
cords, was to assist the land-stewards in collecting 
the rents. To this end he had a certain number of 
troopers and foot soldiers under him, the main body 
of whom lived in quarters around his house ; and 
the little cantonment thus formed passed under the 
name of a thana, and was sometimes dignified with 
a fort. The chief officer, or thanadar, was sup- 
ported either by an assignment on the rents or by 
an allotment of land ; in the former case he paid his 
subordinates in wages, in the latter by small rent- 
free farms. The thanadar's office, like that of the 
ghat-wals, had a tendency to become hereditary, 
but not to the same extent, as the rajah had him 
more under his eye ; and however long the post 
might have been in a family, a succession only took 
place by a new and formal appointment. Besides 
the establishment at the sectional headquarters — 
the thana — one or more subordinates were stationed 
in each important village to assist in collecting the 
rents, to distrain the goods of defaulters, and to see 
that the ryots did not desert their lands. In unim- 
portant hamlets these officials collected the rents 
themselves, and everywhere they seemed to have 
been specially charged with the excise and other 


miscellaneous imposts which the rajah levied. In 
some districts they were paid direct from the thana ; 
in others, as in Beerbhoom and Bishenpore, where 
the rajahs had maintained a quasi independence, 
and where Hindu customs had successfully with- 
stood Moslem centralization, these village officials 
enjoyed small grants of rent-free land. They in 
fact stepped into the places of the hereditary vil- 
lage watch of ancient Hindu times, and in a 
purely Hindu principality like Bishenpore some- 
times lineally represented the original families. 
But not even in Bishenpore was their office 
acknowledged to be hereditary, and on each suc- 
cession a new appointment issued from the thana- 
dar, as on each succession of a thanadar a new 
appointment issued from the rajah. 

It will be objected that I am describing revenue 
officers, not policemen. The objection is perfectly 
sound ; nevertheless my description is a faithful one 
of the only police then known. Under a vigorous 
landholder the thanacjar's duties were chiefly fiscal ; 
under an inert or a corrupt one he became a mere 
plunderer. The landholder, however, was respon- 
sible for the security of Government property pass- 
ing through his district, and the thanadars were 
responsible to the landholder, so that they did in 
some respect perform the duties of a police. This 
liability gave rise to a popular notion that they were 
practically responsible for all property within their 
jurisdiction ; but however the fact may originally 
have stood, the responsibility had been practically 


confined to Government property under recent Mus- 
sulman rule. Lord Cornwallis endeavoured, indeed, 
to extend this liability to depredations on private 
property, but he failed/^^ Public opinion declared 
against the proceeding ; the Calcutta Gazette dis- 
tinctly states that practically the responsibility was 
a dead letter ; and while Mr. Keating assured the 
Government that robberies took place every day, 
he attempted on only three occasions to enforce the 
responsibility. On two of these occasions the land- 
holder was compelled to make good the plunder of 
Government treasure-parties, on the third to find 
and restore certain articles belonoringr to the Com- 
pany's investment which had been stolen ; but on 
not a single occasion was the responsibility enforced 
in behalf of private sufferers. 

Nevertheless the province had paid annually the 
enormous sum of ^360,000 for a police. It can 
never be too distinctly remembered that the treaty 
of 1765 only entrusted the fiscal administration to 
the Company, leaving criminal justice and the police 
to the Nawab, who received from our treasury 
^r 80,000 for personal expenses, and ^360,000 for 
the maintenance of the courts and a sufficient 
establishment of police.^^" Until 1790 the Nawab 
retained the style and the responsibilities of chief 
magistrate. He left the duties wholly unperformed. 
Between 1765 and 1769 he did not even pretend to 

129 Even this attempt only applied to ghat-wals, not to thanadars. 
Letter from Board of Revenue to the Collector, May 1789. 

130 < Agreement between the Nabob Nudjum al Dovvla and the 
Company,' dated Fort-William, 30th September 1765. 


do what he had promised : the regular course of 
justice was at a stand ; ' but every man exercised it 
who had the power of compelHng others to submit 
to his decision.' ^^^ Warren Hastings insisted that 
the Nawab should at least make some show of 
doing what he was paid for. In 1772, a Supreme 
Criminal Court was accordingly established in Cal- 
cutta, with a subordinate tribunal in each district ; 
but in 1775 the Supreme Criminal Court returned 
to Moorshedabad, the residence of the Nawab, and 
continued there till 1790. The tainted air of the 
Nawab's ante-chambers stifled justice of any sort ; 
eunuchs and concubines devoured the funds that 
should have provided security of person and pro- 
perty for the poor; and from 1775 to 1790 the 
whole criminal administration consisted in the sale 
of judicial pl-aces to uneducated and depraved 
Mussulmans, who looked upon a court as a secure 
den for extortion. 

The Company had no legal right to interfere. 
Its duty, as fixed by treaty, was to collect the 
revenue ; and the same authority that invested it 
with fiscal functions, had also appointed the Nawab 
to the criminal administration. Warren Hastino-s, 
with his usual determination to see justice done, 
temporarily usurped the right of supervising the 
Nawab's courts, but he speedily drew back ; nor did 
Lord Cornwallis venture to touch this most clamant 
evil during the first four years of his rule. The 
Company not having the power to compel the 

^^^ Letter from the President and Council to the Court of Directors. 


Nawab to keep up the regular police (Foujdarl 
establishment), did the best it could with the fiscal 
police (Thanadari establishment), and soon the 
very existence of the regular Foujdari police was 

But in 1790 Lord Cornwallis attacked this last 
stronghold of Mussulman misrule/^^ He stripped 
the Nawab of his grossly abused judicial authority, 
contemptuously leaving his allowances as they then 
stood, and established a Supreme Criminal Court 
in Calcutta, presided over by the Governor-General 
and Council, and four Courts of Circuit, with two 
experienced English officers at the head of each. 
Offences too petty for these courts came under the 
cognizance of the English magistrate of the district. 
A Supreme Court in Calcutta supervised the whole. 
The Muhammadan criminal code, with certain mer- 
ciful modifications, continued to be the law of the 
land, and learned Mussulmans sat as assessors to 
explain its provisions to the presiding magistrate 
or judge. 

The new courts at first tried to conduct the 
criminal administration through the agency of the 
fiscal {i. e. Thanadari) police. It formed, as we have 
seen, the only police then existing, and it proved 
wholly incompetent for the duties now laid upon it. 
Indeed, it was doubtful whether the Government 
had any right to saddle the fiscal jDolice with these 
new functions, and it soon became evident that the 
collectors had no power to exact their performance. 

^"- Judicial Regulation xxvi. of 1790. 


The Thanadars appear as frequently on the side of 
the banditti as on that of the authorities. Even 
the stronof - minded Mr. Keating- could not work 
with them. They were not, in fact, his servants. 
He did not appoint them ; he could not dismiss 
them ; he could not even punish them without ' a 
regular process before the magistrate,' and he 
bitterly complains that there are ' no written regu- 
lations for their general conduct, or to limit the 
boundaries of their authority. '^^^ After two years 
of vexation, Lord Cornwallis saw that it was 
useless to give courts without providing them 
with executive machinery, and determined to con- 
struct a regular force out of the fiscal police. He 
divided the Thanadari establishment into two 
classes, — those who were attached to the Thana 
and received wages, and those who were stationed 
in the villages and paid by grants of rent-free land. 
The first class he took entirely out of the land- 
holders' hands, paid it from the treasury, and sub- 
jected it directly to the magistrate's control. But 
two excellent reasons existed for leavlnof the second 
class alone. In the first place, the fiscal village 
police In districts such as Beerbhoom and Bishen- 
pore, had Its roots deep In the national institutions 
of the Hindus, and Lord Cornwallis strove in every 
matter to adapt national institutions to modern 
necessities. They formed a genuine although 
somewhat transformed relic of the ancient village 

^33 To John White and Thomas Brooke, Esqs., Judges of the 
Court of Circuit, dated 7th August 1791. B. J. R. 


watch, and as such he was anxious that they should 
stand. In the second place, they would cost 
Government less than an equally numerous body 
of men. Their pay consisted of rent, that is, in 
holding a little farm without paying any rent. This 
rent was politically made up of two parts, one of 
which, the land-tax, belonged to Government ; and 
the other, the surplus between the land-tax and the 
actual rent, to the landholder. In districts which 
had been brought directly under Mussulman control, 
where the so-called landholder ^^^ was merely the 
tax-gatherer, the legal surplus amounted to only 
ten per cent. ; but in districts that had maintained 
or acquired a semi-independence, where the land- 
holder was a real seigneur paying only a tribute 
like the Rajahs of Beerbhoom and Bishenpore, the 
surplus greatly exceeded the nominal land-tax. It 
was in this latter class of districts that the village 
watch chiefly flourished ; and Lord Cornwallis very 
wisely, as it seemed then, continued a force to 
whose support Government contributed in so small 
degree.^^^ The landholders retained the right of 
appointing them, but they were subjected to a 
certain slight supervision by the regular police, and 
hence indirectly by the English head of the district. 
From the year 1792 these two classes of police 

1^* Zamindar. 

135 Moreover, the order of the 13th October 1790 rendered the 
legality of increasing the permanently fixed land-tax by annexing the 
village-poHce-lands doubtful ; the inexpediency of so doing it ren- 
dered certain. As to the law, cf. Decision of the Privy Council in 
re Joykissen Mookerjee v. the Collector of East Burdwan. 


have existed side by side in Bengal : a regular force 
founded on the old Thana establishments, and paid 
in money, and an irregular force, the representatives 
of the old village watch, supported by small grants 
of rent-free land. Each has its defects, but the 
imperfections of the first class are accidental, and 
easily susceptible of remedy. The defects of the 
second are inherent in the system, and can be got 
rid of only by changing the system itself. In the 
first place, the village watch is now most unequally 
distributed. Railways and roads have diverted 
industry and population from their ancient centres 
into new channels, while the police have remained 
immoveable ; so that an old deserted villao-e is some- 
times pestered with three or four watchmen, while 
a new and crowded mart has not a sino^le one. In 
the second place, the village watchman is the ser- 
vant of two masters : practically, the landholder has 
the use of him during the day, while all that the 
magistrate can get out of him are a few sleepy 
rounds at night. Third, as he owes his appoint- 
ment to the landholder, and is subject to his direct 
control, he gives just such information to the magis- 
trate as he thinks will please his principal master. 
Fourth, the magistrate has no power to fine him 
departmentally. If he sleeps at his post he must 
be cited before a court, witnesses must be sum- 
moned from great distances, a public prosecutor 
must attend, and the travesty of justice ends in a 
shilling fine. Fifth, nor has the magistrate any 
power to promote or reward, no superior grades 


existing, and the whole force being in fact on one 
dead level of inefficiency. Some of these defects in 
the constitution of the rural police result from im- 
provements in other branches of the administration, 
and the national prosperity to which those improve- 
ments have given rise. Others are as old as the 
system itself We find the magistrates complain- 
ing in 1 79 1 that they could not punish the police 
departmentally, and that every village watchman 
could enjoy the dignity without running any of the 
risks of a State trial.^^^ 

The sufferings which this defective system of 
rural police has inflicted on Bengal, would long ago 
have been put an end to had the rural records been 
studied. The Indian historian finds that in the 
ancient Hindu period each village had an heredi- 
tary watchman to protect its property and to main- 
tain the peace. The Indian official finds a police- 
man attached to a village, and immediately sets him 
down as the old Hindu watchman, and as such 
hesitates to interfere with his office. But the re- 
cords prove that the village watchman whom the 
Mussulmans bequeathed to us, had at best but a 
faint connection with the primitive ante-type, and 
in some districts no connection at all. He was not 
hereditary ; he held his office from, and was amen- 
able to, the landholder, not to the village community. 
His duties were to a large extent fiscal, and as an 
officer of criminal justice he acted under the direct 

136 Written in 1855, since which year a reform has been proposed, 
but whether carried out I am at present unable to ascertain. 



control of a regular establishment — the Foujdari — 
with the Mussulman maofistrate at its head. Be- 
tween 1765 and 1790 the Nawab, who still retained 
the criminal administration of the province, per- 
mitted the regular Foujdari establishment to 
dwindle away ; and the Company, having in its 
fiscal capacity the control of the village watchmen, 
attempted to saddle them with the duties of a 
criminal police. These attempts signally failed ; 
but the village watch survives, in spite of three- 
quarters of a century of bribery, extortion, and 
abetment of crime. In this way a creature of Mus- 
sulman misgovernment comes down to us protected 
by the sanctions which are very properly accorded 
to the ancient Hindu institutions of the land. 

The rural police, thus bequeathed to us, form an 
enormous ragged army who eat up the industry of 
the province. In Beerbhoom alone there are 8976 
of them,^^^ besides the regular constabulary amount- 
ing to 370, making a total of 9346 to guard a popu- 
lation .not much, if at all, exceeding one-third of a 
million. ^^^ London, with between three and four 
millions, has, according to the newspapers, only 
6500 police. In Beerbhoom, therefore, there is 
one policeman to every thirty-seven inhabitants ; in 
London, one policeman to between five and six 
hundred inhabitants. In London, however, the 
police constitutes a Fo7^ce, properly so called; in 

^37 Memorandum furnished by the District Superintendent of 
Pohce, dated 26th January 1866. 

138 This number refers only to the Pohce Jurisdiction ; the popula- 
tion of the Civil Jurisdiction is estimated at half a million. 


Bengal the village watch are a mere mob, wholly 
ignorant of the esprit de corps, strangers to pro- 
fessional pride and the official sense of honour 
which that pride develops, not to be relied upon 
in any emergency, unwilling to exercise such detec- 
tive ability as they possess, the plunderers rather 
than the protectors of the people, and oftener the 
abettors than the suppressors of crime. 

But even this miserable police proved incon- 
veniently efficient in those days. The Nawab had 
allowed the administration of criminal justice to fall 
into utter disrepair, and the watchman sent in more 
prisoners than the Courts could dispose of. More 
than one half the inmates of the jail were suspected 
persons waiting ' to be sent in chains to the Muham- 
madan law officer.' In some districts no tribunal 
existed to try them. They lay in stifling dungeons 
until a sufficient number accumulated to make it 
worth while forwarding them under a military 
escort to Moorshedabad. The infrequency of 
arrests indefinitely lengthened this period of sus- 
pense ; and when at last the miserable gang set forth. 
It was with scarce a rag to cover them from the 
torrents of the rainy season or the chill damps of 
the winter night. Staggering under their chains, 
dropping down on the road from want of food, their 
flesh torn by jungle briers, and streaming from 
sword-pricks inflicted by their guards, they reached 
the seat of justice only to be remanded to prison 
until the Mussulman judge found leisure and inclina- 
tion to take up their case. Even the day of trial 


brought no decision : if they were innocent, the 
presiding officer had to be bribed, or he sent them 
back to jail to take the chance of fresh evidence 
turning up ; if they were guilty, he ordered them 
to prison, but often without mentioning any definite 
period. Incredible to relate, a large proportion of 
the felons in the Beerbhoom jail were thus under 
sentence 'to remain during pleasure,' — a legal for- 
mula which, translated into honest English, simply 
meant until the creatures of the court had squeezed 
the unhappy prisoners' friends to the uttermost 

The English head of the district was charged 
with the diet and safe keeping of the prisoners, but 
here his responsibility ended. What little he could 
do to mitigate their sufferings he seems to have 
done, and the records display a very humane super- 
vision on the part of the Central Government on 
this point.^^^ The ruinous state of the jail, how- 
ever, led to cruel precautions against escape ; and 
Lord Cornwallis, when he took up the question of 
prison reform, found the practice had been ' to keep 
prisoners in stocks or fetters, or to fasten them 
down with bamboos, or to shut them up in cells 
or close apartments at night,' — a proceeding which 
in a tropical climate amounts in a very short 
time to sentence of death. ' Not on account of 
the suit or charge on which they are confined, 

1'"'^ E. D. with regard to jail returns, Letter from the Civil 
Auditor to the Collector, dated 25th January 1791 ; with regard to 
diet. Letter from the Accountant-General, 29th December 1790, etc. 
B. J. R and B. R. R. 

VOL. I. Y 


but merely because, from the insecurity of the 
jails, the jailor had no other means of preventing 
their escape.'^*" 

It was not till 1792 that the Company really 
took the prison discipline of Bengal into its own 
hands, and the measure belonors to a series of ereat 
reforms on which this volume cannot enter. Nor 
does it fall within my present scope to describe the 
tedious and uncertain steps by which an effective 
system of civil justice was in the following year 
given to India. It is enough to lay before the 
reader the actual state of the judicial administration 
during the first few years after Beerbhoom passed 
under British rule. Those who have formed their 
idea of our early administration from the enlightened 
efforts of Warren Hastings and Sir William Jones 
towards the formation of Hindu and Mussulman 
codes, will be somewhat startled when placed face 
to face with its practical working. 

For the records place beyond doubt that until 
1 793, civil justice was unknown in Bengal. The 
office of judge formed part of the collector's duties, 
and the least part. The realization of the revenue 
and the quelling of the banditti left him neither 
leisure nor inclination for hearing disputes ; and, as 
Hastings well expressed it, every one set up as a 
judge who had the power to enforce his own decrees. 
A very few statistics with regard to a single district — 
Beerbhoom — will suffice. At that period the united 

'*o Letter from G. A. Barlow, Esq., Sub-Secretary to the Govern- 
ment, dated Council Chamber, the 3d February 1792. B. R. R. 

CIVIL JUSTICE, 1790 AND 1S64. 339 

district was three times its present size, and con- 
tained not under a million of inhabitants/*^ There 
was then a single judge who divided his attention 
among six offices, each of which he deemed more 
important than his judicial work.^'*^ The united 
district has since then been partitioned into three, 
in a single one of which nine courts are con- 
stantly open for the disposal of civil suits, besides 
four others which have jurisdiction in causes con- 
nected with rent or the possession of land.^*^ 
Until 1793 the Government allowed no separate 
expenditure for civil justice within the district ; 
it now allows more than seven thousand pounds 
a year.^*"^ The total number of suits instituted 
between 1787, when Beerbhoom passed directly 
under British rule, and 1793, when the Corn 
wallis Code introduced a new order of things, 
appears to have been one hundred and twelve, or, 
on an average, eighteen per annum. "^ Last year 
(1864) upwards of four thousand civil causes were 
instituted, besides miscellaneous orders and peti- 

^^^ Mr. Keating estimated the population of Beerbhoom at 
800,000, and of Bishenpore at 570,000 ; but he admits these were 
mere guesses. Letter to Board of Revenue, dated nth August 1789. 
In 1801 it was conjectured to be 1,500,000. — Geography of Hindoostan, 
p. 29, Calcutta 1838. B. R. R. etc. 

^*" No cases decided by the Assistant-Magistrate as Registrar 
appear in the Records till after 1793. B. J. R. Regulation xiii. of 1793. 

^■•^ One District Judge, one Principal Sadar Amin, one Sadar 
Amin, six Moonsifs ; besides one Collector, one Assistant, and two 
Deputy- Collectors for the disposal of rent suits. 

^** Budget Estimate for the District of Beerbhoom, 1864-65. 
B. R. R. 

1*^ Return furnished to me by the Civil Judge, dated 5th Decem- 
ber 1865. B. J. R. 


tions. If we consider the innumerable sources of 
dispute which petite culture, with its minute sub- 
division of property and multipKcity of tenures, 
gives rise to, each peasant having his own Httle 
set of rights to maintain, the latter number is by 
no means excessive, and the former number tells a 
sorrowful story of complaints unheard and wrongs 
unredressed. It tells us that, under our first at- 
tempts to do justice to the people of India, only 
one man in sixty thousand annually ventured to 
make use of our courts. Nor was this distrust 
unfounded ; for of the hundred and twelve hardy 
suitors who invoked the aid of the courts between 
1787 and 1792, only sixty-nine had been able to 
obtain a decree at the end of the last-named year. 
On the other hand, while 4489 suits were instituted 
in 1864, 4482 were disposed of;"'' and, practically, 
judicial arrears are now unknown in Bengal. 

I am tempted to advert for a moment to a 
charge brought against the native character by 
two learned historians who have written eloquently 
about the Bengali without any personal acquaint- 
ance with rural Bengal. Mr. Mill and Lord 
Macaulay have painted the Indian husbandman 
as a very litigious, slippery fellow ; the former 
gentleman never having set foot on Indian soil, 
the latter with such materials before him as come 

1^*5 Another return, dated 12th December 1865. These numbers 
represent the whole htigation of the district, respecting both real and 
personal property, exclusive of suits under Act x. of 1859, which, for 
the most part, arise from causes peculiar to Bengal, and are tried by 
special courts. 


in the way of a Calcutta official/*^ The statistics 
of rural litigation in England afford no ground of 
comparison ; for in England only a small section 
of the community has any rights connected with 
the soil, and the litigation to which such rights 
give rise are proportionately few. In Bengal, on 
the other hand, at least five-sixths of the popula- 
tion have some connection with land, and are liable 
to the disputes which naturally spring from it. At 
the beginning of the century, Buchanan found that 
in the district of Patna, including the great city of 
that name, more than a third of the inhabitants 
were ' gentry,' i.e. landed proprietors, and that 
95,510 out of a total population of 123,094 made 
their living entirely by the land. Throughout the 
whole province of Bahar the proportion was 730,157 
out of 829, 103, inclusive of the great towns, and ex- 
clusive of the numbers who joined husbandry with 
trade or handicrafts. The degree of interest which 
the various classes connected with the land have in 
the soil varies ; but, generally speaking, three-fourths 
of the population have sufficient interest in it as 
to form a legitimate source of differences requiring 
judicial adjustment. In addition to this fecund 
source of not unhealthy litigation, it must be re- 
membered that during the past seventy-five years 

^*'' The laboured accuracy of Mr. Mill as to facts can only be 
appreciated by one who has followed his footsteps among the India 
Office records ; and Lord Macaulay's Indian Essays — for example, 
that on Warren Hastings — contain facts that he must have derived 
from the Company's most secret archives. But neither of these 
great men had an opportunity of studying the rural population of 


the pent-up litigation of several centuries has found 
vent, each class of the people having to discover 
by actual experiment what are its rights under our 
Anglo-Indian system of law. 

Let us now examine the result of these various 
stimulants to litis^ation. The number of reQ-ular 
suits in Beerbhoom during 1864 amounted, as we 
have seen, to 4489. The population of the civil 
jurisdiction exceeded half a million,"^ so that in 
round numbers there is one suit in the year for 
120 inhabitants. The average duration of life is 
much shorter in Bengal than in England ; probably 
nearer to thirty than to forty years. Speaking very 
generally, therefore, and without laying undue stress 
on calculations based upon imperfectly ascertained 
data, it would appear that, of every four of the 
rural population, three pass through life without a 
civil suit. 

If we turn from the rural to the general popu- 
lation of the province, the proportion of litigants 
is still less. The population is about thirty-five 
millions ; the total number of civil suits instituted 
during the year (1864) was 134,393/^^ giving a suit 
to every 260 inhabitants ; so that, assuming the 
average duration of existence to be thirty-five years, 
six out of every seven of the Bengali people pass 
through life without having anything to do with 
the civil courts. 

1*^ 514,597 in 1852. Survey Report, p. 43. 

"^ Annual Report of the Administration of the Bengal Presidency 
for 1865-66. High Court (Orig. Juris.), 1385; Small Cause Courts, 
80,906 ; other Civil Courts, 52,102. 


But, in truth, this litigation is only a healthy 
and most encouraging result of three-quarters of a 
century of conscientious government. While those 
who know very little about the natives of India 
pronounce them litigious, the magistrates who 
spend their lives among them have constantly 
complained that they cannot be induced to seek 
the assistance of the authorities. For the first time 
in their history, the people of India are learning to 
enforce their rights, and to do so not by the bands 
of clubmen, which are matters of memory with 
many rural officers, but by the regular process of 
the courts. That the litigation is beneficial, is 
proven by the fact that, out of 108,559 original 
suits, 77,979 were decided in favour of the plain- 
tiff,^'^" besides the vast number which were not 
prosecuted to judgment in consequence of the de- 
fendant privately yielding the claim to save further 
expenses. The habitual enforcement of civil rights 
is the best possible training for the temperate use 
of political privileges ; and the trust which the 
natives of India have learned to repose in our 
judicial system, contrasts strongly with the period 
— scarcely seventy-five years ago — during which 
only one in every sixty thousand inhabitants 
annually ventured to ask the aid of the courts, 
and only one in a hundred thousand annually 
obtained it. 

Turning from the quantity to the quality of the 

^^^ Annual Report of the Administration of the Bengal Presidency, 
for 1865-66, p. 8. (Statistics for 1864.) 


justice then administered, a still more painful scene 
is disclosed. The judges called for or dispensed 
with evidence according to the leisure they had for 
the business, postponed proceedings to suit their 
own convenience, and frequently forgot to take 
them up again. Many of the exhibits bear no 
official signature or seal, so that they might be 
abstracted or inserted by the creatures of the court 
at pleasure. When a case was put off, a date was sel- 
dom fixed for callinof it aofain. It therefore resolved 
itself into a bribing match between the litigants, 
whether the record-keepers should remind the judge 
of its existence, and bring it on for further hearing. 
In this contest the defendant — who, as Sir Henry 
Strachey showed, was the wrong-doer in ninety- 
five out of every hundred suits — generally got the 
better ; for, disgraceful to relate, the order of post- 
ponement sine die forms the final order in a large 
proportion of cases. Even when the evidence had 
been heard, the judge had often no law to guide 
his decision. The Regulations were irregularly 
passed, irregularly transmitted to the courts ; and 
many an old letter from the Central Government 
alludes to laws which the provincial authorities, in 
reply, blandly regretted they could not find in their 
records. If the sole memorial of Lord Cornwallis' 
reign had been his order for the printing and effectual 
publication of the Regulations, he would have ranked 
high as an Indian reformer ; and it is not too much 
to say that, before his time, a body of substantive 
law did not exist in a single district court through- 

THE HISTORY OF A SUIT, 1772-91. 345 

out Bengal. This, however, did not do so much 
harm as might be supposed ; for matters were as 
bad as they could be, independently of the absence 
of law. The decision practically rested, not with 
the judge, but with a venal underling, — the decree 
being written in Persian, a language which not one 
of the district judges could read. Indeed, until the 
year 1789, I have been unable to find a single 
decision of the Beerbhoom court signed or sealed, 
or even initialled, by the English judge or his 


But the obtaining of the decree was only the 
beginning of sorrows. During a quarter of a cen- 
tury every five years had seen new tribunals erected, 
and the successful suitor was drasfS^ed from one 
court of appeal to another, till either he or his 
adversary was ruined. It became, in fact, only 
a question as to which of the two could hold out 
longest, as the history of a single case will prove. 
During the anarchy which preceded the appoint- 
ment of the Company to the fiscal administration 
of Bengal, the Rajah of Bishenpore died, leaving 
two sons. The elder seized an unfair share of the 
inheritance ; and as no justice, either good or bad, 
was to be had in those days, the younger submitted. 
But on the establishment of the Company's courts, 
the younger son applied to them for redress ; and 
after weary years of litigation and unstinted bribery, 
obtained a decree. The elder at once appealed to 
the council at Moorshedabad. The case turned on 
the Hindu doctrines of inheritance — doctrines still 


intricate, and at that time kept secret by the priests ; 
and the judge was an ingenuous striphng of nine- 
teen,^'^^ with whom ' equity and good conscience ' 
were supposed to make up for the want of a legal 
training and a total ignorance of the law. ' Will 
you believe it,' wrote Hastings, ' that the boys of 
the service are the sovereigns of the country, under 
the unmeaning title of supervisors, collectors of the 
revenue, administrators of justice, and rulers, heavy 
rulers, of the people ?' From the council at Moor- 
shedabad the case was transferred to the Board of 
Revenue in Calcutta, where a new set of parties 
had to be bribed, but where no final decision could 
be obtained. A trifling difference about sharing the 
inheritance had thus been fanned by long litigation 
into a deadly feud ; and the Rajah of Bishenpore, 
in a formal petition to Government, designates his 
only brother as ' the enemy of my life.'^'^ From 
the Board of Revenue the case went before the 
Governor-General in Council, who decided that all 
the previous courts had been in the wrong, and that 
the brothers were joint sharers of the inheritance. 
But before this decree was obtained, one brother 
was a white-haired imbecile prisoner in the debtors' 
jail ; the other lay impervious to joy or sorrow on 
his deathbed.^^^ 

Even when the Government prosecuted, the 
delays were interminable. On the ist December 

^^1 Life of Lord Teignmouth, p. 28. 

152 CoUectorto Board ofRevenue,dated 1 5th October 1790. B.R.R. 

153 Acting Collector to Board of Revenue, dated 25th December 
1791. B. R. R. 


1 79 1, the assistant-collector instituted twelve suits 
on behalf of the Company; on the 24th July 1792, 
we find him respectfully representing that in not 
one of them had a day been yet fixed for the 
preliminary hearing. ^^* 

Such were our first attempts at the rural govern- 
ment of Bengal. They do not make a pleasing 
picture ; but this book, if it is to have any value 
at all, must speak the truth. Before passing any 
censure on those early English administrators, how- 
ever, it is right to understand accurately what the 
Company undertook to perform. The treaties of 
1765 vested it with the collection of the revenues, 
and this function it very efficiently and conscien- 
tiously discharged. Attached to the collection of 
the revenue, according to native ideas, was the 
administration of civil justice. This fact the Com- 
pany did not realize till 1772 ; and notwithstanding 
the legislative efforts of Warren Hastings, no reliable 
system of justice reached the people till i793- It 
must be confessed, therefore, that we failed to do 
our duty in this respect ; but it should not be 
forgotten that we found no civil tribunals in the 
country, the ancient judicial machinery having dis- 
appeared during the anarchy which preceded 1765; 
and that, bad as our first courts were, they were 
better than none. With the third function of in- 
ternal government — the administration of criminal 

1^* C. Oldfield, Esq., to Collector, dated 24th July 1791. Indian 
officials will think this delay still more extraordinary when they are 
informed that the cases were resumption suits. B. R. R. 


justice, and the police — the Company had legally 
nothing to do. This department remained in the 
hands of the Nawab until 1 790, and practically the 
English collectors interfered only when crimes of 
violence reached the point at which they endangered 
the revenue. 

But the administration of the country was, 
after all, only a secondary and subsidiary business 
with the East India Company during the greater 
part of the period of which I treat ; a function that 
had been forced upon it, or rather which it had 
been forced for the sake of self-preservation to 
undertake, and one which its ablest counsellors 
long regarded as a source of weakness rather than 
of strength. Until Lord Cornwallis gave a nobler 
interpretation to its duties, commerce and money- 
making continued to be recognised as its chief end, 
conquest and government only as two important 
means. Without some examination, therefore, of 
its dealings and influence as the one great mercan- 
tile power in the land, our survey of rural Bengal 
during the second half of the last century would be 




nr^HE Records disclose the mercantile operations 
of the Company in full play. It managed 
its business according to two distinct systems : by 
covenanted servants who received regular pay, and 
invested the money entrusted to them without mak- 
ing any private profit ; and by unsalaried agents, 
who contracted to supply goods at a certain rate, 
and might make what they could by the bargain. 
The first class bore the titles of residents, senior 
merchants, junior merchants, factors, and sub-factors. 
Their posts formed the most lucrative in the Com- 
pany's gift, and attracted its best men, while its 
political functions were made over, as we have 
seen, to ' the boys of the service.' Warren Hast- 
ings himself — the first Anglo-Indian statesman who 
appreciated the responsibilities of sovereign power 
— did not venture to render the mercantile subser- 
vient to the administrative character of his high 
office. As a legislator his success was partial, but 
as the chief of a great trading corporation which 
had to pay an annual dividend, it was complete ; and 


when he left India, the conspicuous monuments of 
his rule appeared to be, not the administrative 
reforms which have given him a permanent place 
in history, but the weaving villages, filatures, and 
factories which he left in every district of Bengal. 
The influence exercised upon the people by these 
centres of rural industry has escaped the historian ; 
and I believe the present chapter will exhibit the 
Company's trade in a new and not unsuggestive 

Long before the Company deemed it necessary 
to assume the direct administration of the western 
principalities, it had covered them with trading con- 
cerns ; and indeed the peril into which the rajahs' 
misrule brought the factories, formed one of the 
main reasons that induced Lord Cornwallis to take 
Beerbhoom under his own care. A commercial 
resident supervised the whole, and three head fac- 
tories, in conveniently central positions, regulated 
the operations of twelve other subordinate ones. 
Silk, cotton cloths, fibres, gums, and lac dye, fur- 
nished the staple articles of the Beerbhoom invest- 
ment. Mulberry -growing communes fringed the 
margin of the great western jungle, and every bend 
of the Adji on the south, and of the More on the 
north, disclosed a weaving village. These little 
industrial colonies dwelt secure amid the disorders 
of the times, protected not by walls or trained 
bands, but by the terror of the Company's name. 
They afforded an asylum for the peaceable crafts- 
man when the open country was overrun ; and after 


the harvest of the year had been gathered In, the 
husbandman transported thither the crop, with his 
wife, and oxen, and brazen vessels, careless of what 
the banditti might do to the empty shell of his mud 
hovel. Some of these unfortified strongholds grew 
into Important towns ; and as one set of names tell 
of a time w4ien the country seems to have been 
divided between robbers and wild beasts, so another, 
such as Tatti-parah (weaving village), disclose how 
the artisans and small merchants found protection 
by clustering together under the Commercial Resi- 
dent's wing. 

On only two occasions did the banditti venture 
to attack either the Company's workmen or their 
work. The first happened by accident ; the second 
was the act of despair. A train of Government pack- 
bullocks fell Into the hands of robbers while passing 
through the jungle ; but as the drivers fled, there 
was no one to say to whom the goods belonged, and 
they were plundered accordingly. The Commer- 
cial Resident, indignant above measure, wrote to 
the collector. The latter replied in an apologetic 
strain, and the landholder on whose estate the mis- 
fortune happened thought himself happy In being 
allowed to purchase pardon by making good the 
loss. Probably the robbers themselves, on learning 
their mistake, had surrendered the property, for the 
Identical missing articles were recovered. 

The other occasion proved a more serious one. 
Mr. Keatine had hemmed in the banditti on the 
south of the Adji ; but thinking the Company's 


name a sufficient protection, had taken no steps to 
guard the weaving villages on the northern bank. 
Under ordinary circumstances, his calculation would 
no doubt have proved correct. But starving men 
are not to be relied upon ; so one morning the 
marauders crossed the river and sacked the Com- 
pany's principal weaving village. An outrage so 
unprecedented as this was not to be atoned for by 
apologies on the part of the collector, or by com- 
pensation from the landholder. About the same 
time the ancient capital of the district had been 
stormed, its palaces despoiled, and property a hun- 
dred times more valuable than a dozen weaving 
villages destroyed or plundered, without drawing 
forth any comment from the Government. But 
now the collector humbled himself before the Com- 
mercial Resident in vain. The latter laid the 
matter before Lord Cornwallis, and presently a 
severe censure from Government taught Mr. Keat- 
ing that, though the banditti might plunder the dis- 
trict at pleasure, the Company's work-people must 
be protected at any cost. 

The sum spent upon the mercantile investment 
in Beerbhoom varied from .^45,000 to ^^65,000 a 
year.^ The weavers worked upon advances. Every 
head of a family in a Company's village had an ac- 
count at the factory, where he attended once a year 
for the purpose of seeing his account made up, and 
the value of the goods which he had from time to 

^ These sums have been arrived at by adding up the commercial 
drafts on the Treasury. B. R. R. 


time delivered set off against the sums he had re- 
ceived. The balance was then struck, a new ad- 
vance generally given, and the account reopened 
for the ensuing year. 

Mr. Cheap, the Commercial Resident, appears 
throughout in the light of a very important per- 
sonage, and one with whom Mr. Keating, although 
not naturally of a conciliatory turn of mind, did his 
best to keep on good terms. Of longer standing in 
the service than the Collector, and less liable to be 
transferred, the Commercial Resident formed the 
real head of the district. His gains were unlimited ; 
for besides his official pay, he carried on an enor- 
mous business on his own account. We find Mr. 
Keating complaining that he can barely subsist on 
his salary ; that the mud tenement in which the col- 
lectors lived was letting in water, and tumbling down 
upon his head ; and petitioning in vain for a single 
rood of land on which to build a house. Mr. Cheap, 
on the other hand, not only made a fortune, and 
bequeathed the largest indigo plantations In that part 
of Bengal, but meanwhile lived sumptuously in a 
pile of buildings surrounded by artificial lakes and 
spacious gardens, and defended by a strong wall 
which gave the Commercial Residency a look less 
of a private dwelling than of a fortified city. The 
ruins crown the top of a hill visible for many miles, 
and cover as large a space as the palaces, pavilions, 
and mausoleums which the princes of Beerbhoom 
had erected during two hundred years. 

The Commercial Resident, rather than the Co4- 

VOL. I. Z 


lector, wielded the power of the public purse. Mr. 
Keating possessed patronage only to the amount of 
^^■3000 per annum, and all valuable appointments in 
his gift required the confirmation of the Calcutta 
authorities. But Mr. Cheap, as commercial chief, 
had from ;^45,ooo to ;^65,ooo to spend each year on 
behalf of the Company. The whole industrial classes 
were in his pay, and in his person Government ap- 
peared in its most benign aspect. On the Collector 
devolved the harsh task of levying the taxes ; the 
Commercial Resident had the pleasant duty of re- 
distributing them. To the then superstitious Hindu, 
Mr. Keating was the Company in the form of Siva, 
a divinity powerful for evil and to be propitiated 
accordingly ; while Mr. Cheap was the Company in 
the form of Vishnu, powerful for good, less vene- 
rated because less feared, but adored, beloved, 
wheedled, and cheated on every hand. A long un- 
paid retinue followed him from one factory to 
another, and as the -procession defiled through the 
hamlets mothers held aloft their children to catch a 
sight of his palanquin, while the elders bowed low 
before the Providence from whom they derived their 
daily bread. Happy was the infant on whom his 
shadow fell ! For nearly a quarter of a century he 
remained in his palace at Soorool, a visible type of 
the wealth, magnificence, and permanence of the 
great Company ; and an aged man, who still haunts 
the neighbourhood, tells of feasts which lasted forty 
days in those now silent and crumbling halls, where 
his father served, and where he grew up. 


Mr. Cheap exercised magisterial powers, and 
the villagers, to whom an appearance before the 
Collector, whether as plaintiff or defendant, was 
equally an object of terror, referred their disputes 
to the arbitration of the Commercial Resident. 
Little parties arrived every morning, one bearing 
a wild beast and expecting the reward, another 
guarding a captured freebooter,^ a third to request 
protection against a threatened attack on their vil- 
lage, a fourth to procure the adjustment of some 
dispute about their water-courses or landmarks. In 
such matters the law gave Mr. Cheap no power ; 
but in the absence of efficient courts, public opinion 
had accorded jurisdiction to any influential person 
who chose to assume it, and the Commercial Resi- 
dent's decision was speedy, inexpensive, and usually 
just. The Residency formed a bright spot in dark 
places, and the gratitude of the district continued 
judicial authority to Mr. Cheap and his successors 
long after the original need for it had ceased. 
Every landholder in Bengal held his aitcherry, and 
occasionally did justice between his tenants ; but 
Mr. Cheap was the justice-general of the district, 
and Government, wisely recognising the value 
of such popular tribunals, but at the same time 
perceiving the necessity for supervising them, 
has conferred regular magisterial powers on the 
present resident partner of the firm which Mr. 

^ On one occasion the Collector had to indent for a military de- 
tachment, to bring in to headquarters a bandit whom the Commer- 
cial Resident had arrested by his unarmed influence. 


Cheap founded nearly three-quarters of a century 

Besides being the channel for investing the 
Company's money, Mr, Cheap was a great mer- 
chant and manufacturer on his own account. The 
privilege of private trade had at one time been 
cruelly abused. In 1762 it drew forth a bitter 
letter from Hastings. Lord Clive denounced it in 
more than one philippic,^ and by his reforms won 
for himself among the junior writers the title of 
' Clive of infamous memory.'^ Under Vansittart's 
feeble rule it all but suspended the government of 
the country. The Board of Directors wrote severely 
to the Governor-General about it in 1773; it was 
animadverted upon in Parliament in April 1782; 
and as late as 1789, notwithstanding repeated pro- 
hibitions, Lord Cornwallis found it necessary to 
interdict judges and collectors from being concerned 
in mercantile houses.^ One branch of the service, 
and only one, had been excepted. The Commercial 
Residents, having nothing to do with the administra- 
tion of justice or the collection of the revenue, had 
less opportunity of turning their official position 
into a source of extortion or corrupt profits, and it 
was held that public servants would make better 
men of business if they had a little of their own to 

^ Speech in defence of himself in Parliament. Letter to the Court 
of Directors, dated 30th February 1765. Mill, ii. 235, 236, 4to ed. 

* Letter from John Shore, dated 3d December 1769 ; Life, i. 26. 

^ Letter from the Governor-General in Council to the District 
Judges, dated 4th March 1789. Circular Order from Board of Re- 
venue, dated 6th March 1789. B. R. R. 



look after. ' You will see,' writes John Shore, ' that 
we have continued the liberty of private trade to 
your Commercial Residents and agents. Depend 
upon it, that the true way to improve your affairs 
is to make the interests of individuals and of the 
Company go hand in hand.'" 

With regard to Mr. Cheap's private enterprises 
the records are silent. He introduced the cultiva- 
tion of indigo into the district, improved the manu- 
facture of sugar by means of apparatus brought 
from Europe, and established a house which still 
flourishes, and whose brand bears his initials at the 
present hour. Something of the old authority of 
the Commercial Resident yet clings to the firm. 
The ill-feeling between landlord and tenant that 
has ruined Eastern Bengal is unknown on their 
estates, and an order from the resident partner has 
all the force of a legislative enactment throughout 
the valley of the Adji. 

The Company, as we have seen, managed its 
rural manufactures according to two systems : by 
salaried officers like the Commercial Resident, and 
by unpaid agents who agreed to supply the invest- 
ment at given rates. Of the latter class only one 
specimen existed in Beerbhoom. Mr. Frushard, 
a Calcutta merchant, had contracted for the supply 
of silk in Beerbhoom, and built a factory, protected 
by a moat and ramparts, on the banks of the More. 
The river then flowed through pathless jungles, 

•' Letter from John Shore to H. IngUs, Esq., dated 9th November 


with here and there a Httle cleared spot, in which 
the mulberry-growing communes could barely hold 
their own against the wild beasts. But the high 
prices which the Beerbhoom silk fetched tempted 
them to brave every peril ; and as soon as one 
hamlet was harried by the banditti or trampled 
down by wild elephants, another sprang up. The 
Empress Nur Jehan, during her residence with her 
first husband in the adjoining district, having taken 
a fancy for the Beerbhoom fabrics, afterwards set 
the fashion for them at the imperial court, and in 
India a fashion lasts for a few centuries. About 
the year 1786, therefore, Mr. Frushard determined 
to become a producer of Beerbhoom silk on a large 
scale ; and by engaging to supply the Company, 
obtained, through its influence, from the rajah a 
lease of the jungle lands on the north bank of the 

His story makes us feel that we are indeed 
living in a new age. The trials and difficulties 
which constaritly beset him, with the political neces- 
sities which regulated his position, are scarcely 
intelligible to Anglo-Indians of the present day ; 
and even the class to which he belongs has been 
for more than a generation extinct. From the 
day that ' the adventurer' set foot in the district, 
he found the whole officials arrayed against him. 
The natives charged him the highest prices for 
everything, and the Company allowed him the 
smallest, A sanguine, irascible man, ignorant of 
soils, a novice in dealing with the agricultural 

' THE adventurer: MR. FRUSHARD. 359 

classes, but full of energy, and firmly believing that 
a fortune was to be made in a few years, he entered 
into engagements without calculating the cost, and 
lived a laborious life with small profit. In the first 
place, he paid a great deal too much for his land. 
Jungle tracts, such as Mr. Frushard's, then let for 
IS. 6d. an acre ; but the rajah having a monopoly of 
almost the whole land in the district, managed to 
obtain 6s. 6d. from the eager Englishman, or at the 
rate of i6s. for the land really capable of tillage. 
The ordinary rent of excellent rice land then varied 
from 7s. to 125.'^ Mr. Frushard therefore speedily 
fell into arrears, and the rajah complained to the 
collector, employing Mr. Frushard's non-payment 
as a pretext for being himself behind with the land- 
tax. The collector found himself powerless to touch 
the defaulter. He could not distrain the factory 
lands, or take out execution against its stock-in- 
trade, for such a step would interfere with the 
regular supply of the silk investment ; and the 
presumption of doing a native justice at the ex- 
pense of disarranging the mercantile operations of 
the Company, was a thing unheard of in those 
days. Mr. Keating, furious at * the adventurer,' but 
afraid to take any step that would bring down upon 
his own head the wrath of the Board of Trade, 
poured forth his complaints to the Board of Revenue. 
He stated that, while the factory property was thus 

'■ Old Purgunnah Nerriks and papers furnished by the Court of 
Wards' Manager of the Hetumpore estates. Also Collectorate Ner- 
riks. B. R. R. 


protected from attachment, ' the adventurer' secured 
his person from arrest by living beyond his juris- 
diction, and that, in short, he had no means of 
reaching ' that pai-khast ryot, Mr. Frushard.' Nor 
was the latter gentleman less clamant. His case 
even reached the Court of Directors, and we find 
Lord Cornwallis writing of him as one that deserves 
special indulgence in 1787."^ The burden of all his 
petitions was, that the Government should use its 
influence with the rajah to procure a remission of 
his rent ; a delicate task even for a despotic govern- 
ment to undertake. At length, in 1 790, he declares 
himself wearied out, and makes one final appeal for 
relief. He had taken the land, he says, at an ex- 
orbitant rent ; to this rent he had added the interest 
on the capital by which he had brought in the land 
from jungle ; he had suffered heavy losses from 
floods ; his filature had been at work during four 
years, but it had not begun to pay ; in the past 
year (1789) he had indeed cleared the paltry sum 
of ^200 as a return for all his capital, but during 
the current year (1790) he would not be able to 
make both ends meet. ' In a word, although for 
these five years forbearing from any place of public 
resort, and living almost in retirement, here I am, 
after a ten years' absence from home, with no hope 
to return, and with barely the means to live.'^ 

It was only those who drew the prizes in the 

^ Letter from the Bengal Council to the Court of Directors, dated 
27th July 1787, para. 34. I. O. R. 

^ Letter, the Honourable Charles Stuart, P. and M. B. R., dated 
4th June 1790. B. R. R. 


lottery of our early Indian commerce who appeared 
before the English public. But no idea can be 
further from the truth than the belief that to eo 
out to India in the old time as a merchant was 
synonymous with making a fortune. Those who 
drew the blanks never came home to tell the tale. 
The records disclose unsuccessful speculators like 
Mr. Frushard in every district of Bengal, struggling 
on against usury, sickness, heat, and malaria, rigidly 
excluded from the society of their official country- 
men, and unable to afford those necessary luxuries 
which alone render existence in India tolerable to 
a native of the temperate zone. 

It is fair to state, that while the district officers, 
and especially Mr. Keating, thwarted the unhappy 
Superintendent of Filatures at every turn, the higher 
authorities looked upon him as an unavoidable evil, 
and rather favoured him than otherwise. At length, 
in 1 79 1, Lord Cornwallis, fearing to lose his services 
altogether, commanded that all his past arrears 
should be forgiven ; that for the future his rent 
should be reduced by nearly a half ; and that the 
collector should deduct whatever these sums came 
to from the land-tax payable by the rajah. ^^ For 
the agency system had been found to yield larger 
profits to the Company than the more imposing 
operations of the Commercial Resident. It was 
conducted partly with the speculator's private capital, 
partly with money advanced by the Board of Trade. 

"^ Forwarded with the Board of Revenue's letter, dated i8th July 
1 79 1, and previous correspondence. B. R. R. 


The Company ran no risk. If the season proved 
a bad one the agent suffered, and the factory, buih 
at his expense, afforded a material guarantee if he 
failed to perform his contract. 

Mr. Frushard, being thus relieved from the 
exorbitant rent he had hastily agreed to, became 
a permanent resident in Beerbhoom, and soon a 
very important one. A pushing Englishman, with 
^15,000^^ a year to spend on behalf of the Com- 
pany, and as much more as his credit could supply 
on his own account, and connected with the Govern- 
ment in a degree that his servants were likely to 
exaggerate, he had already acquired great influence 
among the rude jungle-communes. The collector's 
jurisdiction practically ended on the south side of 
the More. All beyond was forest and waste, and 
its scattered inhabitants had to protect themselves 
as best they could. In this uncared-for territory 
the presence of an energetic mercantile Englishman 
soon made itself felt in spite of official discourage- 
ment. He became their magistrate and judge, 
arrested robbers, freed many a village from tigers, 
and drove the margin of cultivation deep into the 

All this was as wormwood to Mr. Keating. It 
seemed to him that a non-official Englishman was 
a dangerous animal in a district : he had conscien- 
tiously tried to prevent Mr. Frushard rising when 
he was down ; and now that prosperity had dawned 

^1 This sum has been arrived at by adding up the treasury drafts. 
B. R. R. 


on him, he tried to render him as uncomfortable 
as possible. The records prove that no protection 
was afforded to him from the district headquarters. 
The Commercial Resident could order out at plea- 
sure a detachment of soldiers to guard his weaving 
villages, but the most that Mr. Frushard ventured 
to ask for was a few sepoys to convey to Soorie 
the bandits whom he had captured and imprisoned 
in his factory.^^ Moreover, Mr. Cheap's office com- 
jDelled the cultivators to sow what crops he wanted, 
and he thus obtained his raw materials without having 
to buy land and farm it himself. Mr. Frushard, on 
the other hand, had to grow his mulberry bushes 
on his own fields, and by means of hired labourers 
(nij-abad), then a costly and troublesome method. 

Mr. Frushard's assumption of judicial powers 
formed an agreeably permanent source of recrimina- 
tion, maintained with equal spirit by the collector 
and himself The Board of Revenue failed to still 
the clamour ; the Court of Circuit found itself 
equally powerless ; and the feud, which a little 
mutual courtesy might have turned into a warm 
friendship, at length went up for decision by the 
Governor- General himself. Mr. Frushard com- 
plained that the collector, by vexatious arrests, 
dragged off his head-men ' at the most critical junc- 
ture of the year,' and rendered it impossible for him 
to fulfil the Company's contracts. ^'^ The collector 

^2 Military Correspondence, p. 24, etc. B. R. R. 
^^ Letter to the Judges of the Circuit Court, dated 17th May 1791, 
etc. B. R. R. 


retaliated by charging Mr. Frushard with ' opposi- 
tion to the authority of his court,' and with turning 
his factory into an asylum for criminals fleeing from 
justice. Thus the two pass away from the records 
of the period of which I treat, fighting to the last ; 
no unfit types of the English adventurer and the 
average official of those days. 

I am tempted to diverge for a moment into a 
description of the character and legal status of the 
early English settlers in Bengal. The materials 
which have accumulated for such an account during 
four years' researches in the records, are necessarily 
very great. But I have steadily endeavoured to 
keep in mind that this book is not about the English 
in India, whether official or non-official, but about 
the natives. It must suffice, therefore, to state 
that the pioneers of independent British enterprise 
in Bengal were of two kinds : ' interlopers,' who 
came out in spite of the Company's prohibition, 
and trusted to their connections, or to bribery, or 
to appeals ad misericoi^diam, for a sort of con- 
temptuous leave to remain ; and ' adventurers,' 
men of education, energy, and often of considerable 
capital, who had obtained the sanction of the Court 
of Directors before starting from England. Both 
classes were unwelcome to the local officers, and 
for two good reasons. The rural courts had no 
jurisdiction over the British-born subject ; and even 
when the latter bound himself to be subject to 
them, as all ' adventurers' had to do before leaving 
Calcutta, it was found that practically the country 


tribunals were powerless. The ' adventurer' might 
secure his factory from attachment by taking a 
contract for the Company's investment, and his 
person from arrest by living out of the district, or 
in Calcutta. This was precisely what Mr. Frushard 
did, and it does not appear that the rajah once 
thought of reaching him by means of the costly, 
and to a native mysterious, machinery afforded by 
the Presidency Courts. The second ground of 
objection to British settlers at that period was that 
somehow Englishmen require and exact a much 
higher class of administration than satisfies the 
natives of India, or than the Company was then 
willing to give. Even at the present day, the 
localities in which the English element chiefly 
abounds, obtain a disproportionately large share of 
the talent of the service ; and many a collector 
who has administered a snusf old-fashioned Beno-ali 
district for years, without attracting either praise or 
blame, publicly breaks down if called upon to deal 
with the questions to which English energy and 
English capital in India give rise. 

This, however, furnishes a very strong reason 
why English settlers should now be welcome in 
Bengal. They force the Government to do its 
work well, and there cannot be a doubt that from 
the beginning the effect of English commerce has 
been beneficial to the people. The presence of 
a man like Mr. Cheap in a district made up in no 
small degree for the defects of the regular admini- 
stration, and the necessity of protecting his com- 


merce put some limit to the general insecurity of 
property that then prevailed. Another practical 
benefit of the Company's trade was, that very little 
of the revenue went out of the district. Under 
Mussulman rule the whole had been swept off to 
Moorshedabad ; under the Company, nearly two- 
thirds were returned directly to the local circulation, 
in purchase of the staples of the district. In due 
time private English enterprise stepped into the 
place of the Company's trade ; and though the 
surplus revenue now goes to Calcutta for the im- 
perial expenses, planters and produce -merchants 
pour an unfailing stream of capital into rural 

The benefits which Mr. Cheap conferred upon a 
large scale, Mr. Frushard repeated on a smaller one. 
He spread a ring of cultivation and prosperity round 
his factory, and soon founded little tributary filatures 
throughout the whole north-eastern jungle of Beer- 
bhoom. He seems to have been a very typical 
Englishman — too sanguine to be prudent at first, 
and too insular to sympathize with native ways, but 
eventually settling down into an experienced English 
planter, with that rough, paternal liking which almost 
every Englishman in a Bengal district sooner or 
later gets for the simple people among whom he 
lives. His factory, rebuilt several, now forms 
the most imposing mercantile edifice in Beerbhoom. 
It is charmingly situated on a rising ground on the 
bank of the More, defended from the river by colossal 
buttresses, and surrounded by a high and many-angled 


wall, enclosing a space large enough for a little 
town. The remnant of its ancient library still bears 
witness to a fair degree of mental culture on the 
part of its ancient possessors, particularly an cditio 
princeps of Gibbon, six noble quartos, over whose 
pages, let us hope, the isolated ' adventurer' often 
forgot his squabbles with the collector and the 
floods that threatened his mulberry fields. His 
successors now employ two thousand four hundred 
artisans for the single process of winding off the 
cocoons ; and if to these be added the unnumbered 
multitudes of mulberry - growers and silkworm- 
breeders, with their families, it may be calculated 
that the factory gives bread to fifteen thousand 
persons. Its annual outlay averages ;^7 2,000, or 
nearly half as much again as the whole investment 
of the Commercial Resident in bygone days, and 
the yearly value of the general silk manufactures of 
the district exceeds ^160,000 sterling.^^ It must be 
remembered that this is only one of many staples. 
Besides Mr. Frushard's successors on the More, 
there are Mr. Cheap's successors on the Adji, with 
smaller factories scattered up and down ; and be- 
sides silk, the district produces indigo, lac-dye, iron, 
fibres, and oil-seeds to an enormous value, not to 
speak of the large annual exportation of grain, — a 
branch of its commerce which still remains in native 
hands. It is this influx of English capital that has 
chiefly given employment to the increased inhabit- 

1^ Answers to questions furnished to me by the resident partner 
of the firm. A cultivator Hves well on ^8 a year. 


ants, whom long-continued security to person and 
property has developed. Rural Bengal has ceased to 
depend for its subsistence entirely on the land ; and 
so, although the quantity of land stands still, the 
population may with safety multiply. Nor is it too 
much to say, that independent British enterprise, 
once so hated and suspected by the Company's ser- 
vants, has now rendered it possible to give good 
government to India, without intensifying the 
struggle for life. 

In forming an estimate of the manner in which 
the Company discharged its functions, therefore, it 
is necessary to keep in mind what it understood 
these functions to be. Until 1790, its avowed prin- 
cipal business was commerce, and this it accom- 
plished excellently well. Its secondary business was 
the collection of the revenue, in order to yield a 
fund with which to trade ; and in this, too, it dis- 
played great energy and skill. Its third duty 
was the administration of justice ; but seven years 
(1765-72) elapsed before it realized that this per- 
tained to it at all, and during twenty-one years more 
(1772-93) its rural courts failed to bring justice 
home to the people. For the state of the criminal 
administration and the police it was not responsible, 
either according to treaty or in fact, until 1790. 




T HAVE now examined the surface of rural society 
in Bengal during the second half of the last 
century, and here the present volume must end. 
The picture will probably be displeasing to that 
large hero-worshipping section of my countrymen 
who have learned to believe that two great men — 
Clive and Hastings — suddenly transformed the 
Company from a trading association into a sove- 
reign power. Clive did indeed win for the Com- 
pany that power ; but neither he nor his masters 
knew what he had won. V^arren Hastings disclosed 
a deeper sense of the responsibilities of empire. 
He perceived that in government two elements 
have to be considered : the governed as well as 
the governors ; and the first years of his rule are, 
from a legislative point of view, the most brilliant 
episode in the history of the English in India. But 
Hastings had not the power to carry out what 
he devised, and the India Office records of that 
period are a narrative of good intentions rather than 
of actual reforms — an Utopia which, while full of 
ideas that their author never was able to give 

effect to, fails to show what he really accomplished. 
VOL. L 2 A 


Yet these records form the sole materials from 
which Indian history has hitherto been written, 
Clive and Warren Hastings both accomplished 
great things with small means. But the dispropor- 
tion between the means and the end was infinitely 
greater in the case of Hastings than in that of Clive ; 
for many generals have vanquished great armies 
with little ones, but Warren Hastings alone, in the 
history of conquerors, set about honestly governing 
thirty millions of people by means of a few mer- 
cantile clerks. 

In Lord Cornwallis centred that happy union 
of great qualities with the good gifts of fortune 
necessary for an English statesman of the highest 
class. His rank enabled him to demand his own 
terms from the Company ; and he turned a deaf ear 
to all overtures, until it consented to entrust him 
with local sovereign powers according to law, as 
well as in fact. Had Warren Hastings possessed 
these powers, the reforms of 1790-93 would have 
been ante-dated twenty years. But in addition to 
his greater freedom from control. Lord Cornwallis 
found an able school of Indian statesmen whom 
Hastings had laboriously trained up, only to be 
parted from when they reached their prime, — a 
school represented by Rous in England and by 
Shore in Bengal. Into the brilliant future which then 
dawned for India I am not permitted to enter ; nor 
am I careful to answer those who think it unfair to 
delineate the old dark days, without giving so much 
as a glimpse at the bright period which succeeded. 


I have depicted the state of rural Bengal when it 
passed into our hands ; and most educated English- 
men know sufficient of its present condition to have 
some perception of the difference. At a future 
period it may be my delightful duty to fill in the 
details of the contrast ; but meanwhile, to any one 
who questions the benefits of British rule, espe- 
cially if he be a native of India, I can only say, Si 
monumenttim qucsris, circunispice. 

For, meanwhile, the Indian annalist has a much 
more urgent work in hand than to sound the praises 
of the English governors. The rights of the 
governed are still unascertained. We are con- 
scientiously striving to rule according to native 
usages and tenures ; but no one can pronounce with 
certainty as to what these usages and tenures are. 
As late as 1859 the whole land-law of Bengal under- 
went revision, important changes being given effect 
to, and throwing the province into a paroxysm of 
litigation. In 1865, after the new system had been 
at work for five years, the fifteen judges of the 
Supreme Court met together definitively to interpret 
its provisions ; and in order to do so, they found 
themselves compelled to enter into questions of 
the most recondite history. Several of their judg- 
ments were antiquarian discussions rather than 
declarations of the written law ; and however sound 
and beneficial their decision has proved, antiquarian 
researches, when they travel out of the statute book 
into the domain of unascertained history, form a 
very dangerous ground for judges to enter upon. 


It is a work which ouMit to be done to their 

Several able men have already endeavoured to 
perform this task. One class has hoped to discover 
the rights of the people in the ancient Hindu code. 
But the doctrines of Manu or Yajnavalkya bear 
about the same relation to the present land-law of 
Beneal, that the Codex Theodosianus does to the 
present land-law of Turkey. Another class arguing 
from the fact that Bengal, although Hindu at bottom, 
had long been subjected to Mussulman rule, has 
sought for an elucidation of its tenures in the 
writings of Arabian jurists. But these excellent 
scholars forget that the Muhammadan conquest of 
Lower Bengal was never perfectly accomplished ; 
that many of its princes were tributaries rather 
than subjects ; and that the Kuran, the Hidaya, or 
even such works as the Fatwa Alamgiri, had small 
effect except within the radius of Mussulman influ- 
ence. The real land-law of the country is to be found 
in those researches which were conducted by the 
rural officers during the first half-century of our rule. 

In the next volume, therefore, I propose to 
inquire into the rights and legal status, as disclosed 
in the rural records, of the various classes who 
owned or cultivated the soil. An important source 
of evidence is the history of the great houses whom 
we found in possession of the land. The investiga- 
tion involves a survey, not of the archives of a few 
families or districts, but of all the districts, and of 
as many as possible of the great families in the 


province. Curiously enough, the latter formidable 
task has recently been undertaken by several of the 
leading native gentlemen in Bengal, independently 
of my researches, and it will shortly become pos- 
sible to arrive at a definite solution of Indian tenures 
and usages. My own investigations point to an 
infinite gradation in the rights of the various classes 
interested in the land. In some districts the land- 
holder was almost independent of the Mussulman 
Viceroy, and seldom or never subjected to his inter- 
ference ; in others he was only a bailiff appointed 
to receive the rents. In some districts, again, 
peasant rights were acknowledged, and the old 
communal system survived as a distinct influence ; 
in others the cultivators were mere serfs, and one 
of the principal duties of the rural police was to 
prevent them absconding from their villages. This 
is the secret of the contradictory objections which 
were urged against Lord Cornwallis' interpretation 
of the land-law. At that time, as one of the 
Company's servants declared in the Calcutta Gazette, 
the people's rights were so little established, ' that 
the inquiries of the ablest men have not ascer- 
tained them ;'^ and another authority states that no 
two men in the service took the same view of them. 
It fell out, therefore, that those collectors who had 
to deal with districts in which the landholders were 
the real owners of the soil, complained that the 
Permanent Settlement had stripped them of their 
rights and ruined them ; while those who had derived 

1 Calcutta Gazette, dated 3d June 1790. 


their experience from parts of the country in which 
the Mussulman system had uprooted the ancient 
houses, objected that Lord CornwalHs had sacrificed 
the claims of the Government and the rio^hts of the 
people to elevate a parcel of tax-gatherers and land- 
stewards into a sham gentry. 

With a view to ascertaining what analogy may 
be derived from the Muhammadan land tenures in 
Europe, I availed myself of one of those periods 
of ill-health incident to an Indian career to visit 
Turkey and the Danubian provinces. I found the 
same uncertainty with regard to the land tenures 
prevailing throughout the Ottoman dependencies 
as in Bengal. In neither Europe nor India have 
the Mussulmans succeeded in introducing a uniform 
system, or in evolving a homogeneous nation. The 
only explanation, with any pretensions to compre- 
hensiveness, that I obtained was from Photyaris 
Bey, the Ottoman Minister in Greece, one of that 
little knot of enlightened statesmen in whom the 
future of Turkey is bound up. But even the acute 
Phanariot's account did not tally with the actual 
state of things in the remote provinces. According 
to a Wallachian nobleman, the plenum dominimn 
centred in the great landholders ; according to a 
Bulgarian peasant, the cultivator was the pivot on 
which the rural system turns ; according to the 
officials in the large towns and the Constantinople 
press, the Government is all in all. 

In this volume I have endeavoured to exhibit 
the ethnical elements of the Bengali people, and 


their condition when they passed under British rule. 
The praise or blame of the EngHsh Government 
forms no part of my scheme, and indeed I am 
thankful that the administrator who figures most 
in my narrative, Mr. Keating, was one of those 
ordinary men who excite neither indignation nor 
admiration. He did his appointed work, and 
received for it his appointed pay, but he was 
altogether incapable of giving that interpretation 
to his duties, which can invest with dignity and 
poetry the long hot years of Indian official life. I 
am afraid, however, that I may have dealt hardly 
with our predecessors the Mussulmans ; but it must 
be remembered that I am speaking of them in their 
last days of decrepitude and enervation. Of the 
ancient native houses, the true leaders of the people, 
I have yet to speak ; and any one who judges of 
them from that dark period to which this volume 
has been confined, will do them the same injustice 
that is done to the population at large by those who 
mistake Lord Macaulay's graphic description of 
the Bengali, as he emerged abject from Mussulman 
oppression, for a delineation of the normal and per- 
manent character of the Hindus. 




To the Hon'ble the Court of Directors for Affairs of the 
Hon'ble the United Company of Merchants of 
England trading to the East Indies. Dated Fort- 
William, the 3d November 1772. 

Revenue Department. 

Hon'ble Sirs, — In our address by the Colebrooke, dated 
the 13th April last, we acquainted you with the state of your 
revenues in Bengal to that period, since which we have closed 
the account of the neat settlements and collections for the last 
Bengal year, a copy of which we now transmit a number (sic) in 
this packet. From it you will please to observe that the total 
receipts, including some deductions written off to profit and loss 
in the Moorshedabad treasury, amounted for last year to sicca 
rupees 1,57,26,576: to: 2: i; so that the Ballances ^ for that 
year are now reduced to Rs. 12,40,812 : 7 : 15, a great part of 
which we shall hope to realise ; and we flatter ourselves that this 
reduction of the Ballances, and the comparative view we hope 
you will take of the Bengal collections for these several years 
past, with those of the last year, will fully satisfy you as to the 
favourable Success we have met with in collection of the revenues. 
The Moorshedabad books, that will be transmitted to you by the 
next ship compleatly ballanced, will further elucidate the state- 
ment of the last year's revenue, which we have now the honour 
of enclosing. 

At a meeting of your Council of the 30th August, it was 
unanimously resolved to adopt the plan proposed by our Presi- 
dent and members of the Committee of Circuit at Cossimbazaar, 
1 This letter is printed exactly as it is spelt in the original. 


for removing the Seat of the Revenue Business to the Presidency, 
and for putting this important Branch of your affairs under the 
immediate management of your Governor and Council; in con- 
sequence of which we fonned ourselves into a Board of Revenue 
the 13th ultimo. Since that time all affairs respecting the Col- 
lections or internal Government of the Provinces have been con- 
fined solely to this department, and we shall henceforth address 
you separately upon all matters which come under these Heads. 

In order to give you a distinct Idea of this subject, and to 
make it the more complete, we shall begin by recapitulating the 
most important measures that have been lately taken, and in 
which you have been in part advised in ovir former Letters. 

In one letter by the Nottingham, you were informed of our 
intention of letting the lands throughout the provinces in farm, 
upon long and well-regulated Leases ; and we are happy to reflect 
that such a material and principal mode of conducting the Collec- 
tions, should coincide so entirely with your sentiments and orders 
on the subject. After the most serious and mature deliberation 
on this point, we determined, in our proceedings of the Com- 
mittee of the Revenue of the 14th May, to establish a plan for 
settling the several districts upon this footing, and for the future 
government of your Collections. This being the Constitutional 
Ground-Work of all our subsequent measures, and of the system 
which we have since attempted to build upon it, we have thought 
it necessary, for your immediate attention, to transmit a copy 
of it as a Number in the Packet, with our reasons at large for 
adopting the Regulations therein laid doA\'n. 

Before we proceed further upon this subject, it may not be 
improper to premise some general Remarks on the State of the 
Province at this Juncture. 

The effects of the dreadful Famine which visited these Pro.; 
vinces in the Year 1770, and raged during the whole course of 
that Year, have been regularly made known to you by our former 
advices, and to the public by laboured descriptions, in which 
every Circumstance of Fact, and every Art of Languages, have 
been accumulated to raise Compassion, and to excite Indignation 
against your Servants, whose unhappy lot it was to be the wit- 
nesses and spectators of the sufferings of their fellow-creatures. 
But its influence on the Revenue has been yet unnoticed, and 
even unfelt, but by those from whom it is collected ; for, not- 


withstanding the loss of at least one-third of the Inhabitants of 
the Province, and the consequent decrease of the Cultivation, the 
nett collections of the year 177 1 exceeded even those of 1768, as 
will appear from the following Abstract of Accounts of the Board 
of Revenue at Moorshedabad for the four last years : — 

Bengal Year. 

1175 [1768-69].— Net Collections, . . . 1,52,54,856 : 9 : 4 : 3 

1 1 76 [1769-70]. — The year of dearth, which was pro- 1 

ductive of the Famine in the / 1,31,49,148 : 6 : 3 : 2 
following year, . . . ) 


> 1,40,00,030 .-7:3:2 

I178 [1771-72], . 

1,57,26,576 : lO : 

; 2 : I 

Deduct the amount of de- 
ficiencies occasioned in the 
Revenue by unavoidable 
losses to Government, 

3,92,915 :ll ; 



It was naturally to be expected that the diminution of the 
Revenue shou'd have kept an equal pace with the other Conse- 
quences of so great a Calamity. That it did not, was owing to 
its being violently kept up to its former Standard. To ascertain 
all the means by which this was effected will not be easy. It is 
difficult to trace the Progress of the Collections through all its 
Intricate Channels, or even to comprehend all the Articles 
which compose the Revenue in its first operations. One Tax, 
however, we will endeavour to describe, as it may serve to 
account for the Equality which has been preserved in the past 
Collections, and to which it has principally contributed. It is 
called Najay, and it is an Assessment upon the actual inhabit- 
ants of every Inferior Description of the Lands, to make up for 
the Loss sustained in the Rents of their neighbours who are 
either dead or have fled the Country. This Tax, though equally 
impolitic in its Institution and oppressive in the mode of exact- 
ing it, was authorised by the antient and general usage of the 
Country. It had not the sanction of Government, but took 
place as a matter of course. In ordinary cases, and while the 
Lands were in a state of cultivation, it was scarcely felt, and 
never or rarely complained of However irreconciliable to strict 
Justice, it afforded a preparation to the State for occasional De- 
ficiencies ; it was a kind of Security against Desertion, by making 

3 8 2 BENGAL /iV t 7 7 2 , FOR TRA YED [Appx. A. 

the Inhabitants thus mutually responsible for each other; and 
precluded the inferior Collector from availing himself of the 
Pretext of waste or Deserted Lands to withhold any part of his 
Collections. But the same Practice which at another Time and 
under different Circumstances would have been beneficial, be- 
came at this period an insupportable Burthen upon the Inhabit- 
ants. The Tax not being levied by any Fixed Rate or Standard, 
fell heaviest upon the wretched Survivors of those Villages which 
had suffered the greatest Depopulation, and were of course the 
most entitled to the Lenity of Government. It had also the addi- 
tional Evil attending it, in common with every other Variation 
from the regular Practice, that it afforded an opportunity to the 
Farmers and Shicdars to levy other Contributions on the People 
under color of it, and even to encrease this to whatever magni- 
tude they pleased, since they were in course the Judges of the 
Loss sustained, and of the Proportion which the Inhabitants were 
to pay to replace it. 

Complaints against this Grievance were universal throughout 
the Province, and it was to be feared that the continuance of it 
would be so great a check to the Industry of the People, as to 
impoverish the Revenue in the last Degree, when their former 
savings by which it was supported were gone. 

Though 7 Years had elapsed since the Company became 
possessed of the Dewanny, yet no regular Process had ever been 
formed for conducting the Business of the Revenue. Every 
Zemin daree and every Taluk was left to its own peculiar Cus- 
toms. These indeed were not inviolably adhered to. The 
Novelty of the Business to those who were appointed to super- 
intend it, the chicanery of the people whom they were obliged 
to employ as their agents, the accidental Exigencies of each 
District, and, not unfrequently, the just Discernment of the 
Cpllector, occasioned many changes. Every change added to 
the confusion which involved the whole, and few were either 
authorised or known by the presiding Members of the Govern- 
ment. The Articles which composed the Revenue — the Form 
of keeping Accounts, the Computation of time, even the Techni- 
cal Terms, which ever form the greatest part of the obscurity of 
every science — differed as much as the soil and productions of 
the Province. This Confusion had its origin in the Nature of 
the Former Government. The Nazims exacted what they could 


from the Zemindars ; and great Farmers of the Revenue, whom 
they left at Liberty to plunder all below them, reserving to them- 
selves the prerogative of plundering them in their Turn, when 
they were supposed to have enriched themselves with the spoils 
of the Country. The Muttisiddees who stood between the 
Nazim and the Zemindars, or between them and the People, 
had each their respective shares of the Public Wealth. These 
Profits were considered as illegal Embezzlements, and therefore 
were taken with every Precaution that cou'd ensure secrecy; 
and being, consequently, fixed by no Rate, depended on the 
Temper, Abilities, or Power of each Individual for the Amount. 
It therefore became a duty in every man to take the most 
effectual measures to conceal the Value of his Property, and 
elude every Inquiry into his Conduct, while the Zemindars and 
other Landholders who had the Advantage of long Possession, 
availed themselves of it by complex Divisions of the Lands and 
intricate modes of Collection to perplex the Officers of the 
Government, and confine the knowledge of the Rents to them- 
selves. It will easily be imagined that much of the Current 
Wealth stopped in its way to the public Treasury. It is rather 
Foreign from the purpose of this Exposition, but too apposite 
not to be remarked that it was fortunate such a system did pre- 
vail, since the Embezzlements which it covered preserved the 
Current Specie of the Country, and returned it into Circulation, 
while a great part of the Wealth received by the Government 
was expended in the Country, and but a small superfluity re- 
mained for remittances to the Court of Delhee, where it was lost 
for ever to this province. 

To the original Defects inherent in the Constitution of these 
Provinces, were added the unequal and unsettled Government of 
them, since they became our property. A part of the Lands 
which were before in our possession, such as Burdwan, Midna- 
pore, and Chittagong, continued subject to the authority of the 
Chiefs, who were immediately accountable to the Presidency. 
The 24 Pergunnahs, granted by the Treaty of Plassey to the 
Company, were theirs on a different Tenure, being their im- 
mediate property by the Exclusion of the Zemindars, or hereditary 
Proprietors : their rents were received by Agents apjDointed to 
each Pergunnah, and remitted to the Collector, who resided in 

384 BENGAL /i\^ 1772, PORTiiAYED [Appx. A. 

The Rest of the Province was for some time entrusted to the 
joint-charge of the Naib Dwan and Resident of the Durbar, and 
afterwards to the Council of Revenue at Moorshedabad, and to 
the Supervisors who were accountable to that Council. The 
administration itself was totally excluded from a concern in this 
Branch of the Revenue. 

The internal arrangement of each District varied no less than 
that of the whole Province. The Lands subject to the same 
Collector, and intermixed with each other, were some held by 
Farm, some superintended by Shicdars, or Agents on the part of 
the Collector, and some left to the Zemindars and Talucdars 
themselves, under various degrees of Controul. The First were 
racked without mercy, because the Leases were but of a Year's 
standing, and the Farmer had no Interest or Check to restrain 
him from exacting more than the Land could bear. The Second 
were equally drained, and the Rents embezzled, as it was not 
possible for the Collector, with the greatest degree of attention 
on his part, to detect or prevent it. The latter, it may be sup- 
posed, were not exempted from the general corruption. If they 
were, the other Lands which lay near them would suffer by the 
migration of their inhabitants, who wou'd naturally seek Refuge 
from oppression in a milder and more equitable Government. 

The Administration of Justice has so intimate a connection 
with the Revenue, that we cannot omit the mention of it, while 
we are treating of this subject in a general view, although we 
have already given our sentiments upon it at large in another 
place, to which we shall crave Leave to refer. The Security of 
private properity is the greatest Encouragement to Industry, on 
which the wealth of every State depends. The Limitation of the 
Powers annexed to the Magistracy, the Suppression of every 
Usurpation of them by private authority, and the Facilitating of 
the access to Justice, were the only means by which such a 
Security cou'd be obtained. But this was impossible under the 
circumstances which had hitherto prevailed. While the Nizamut 
and the Dewannee were in different Hands, and all the Rights 
of the Former were admitted, the Courts of Justice which were 
the sole Province of the Nazim, though constituted for the 
general Relief of the Subjects, cou'd receive the Reformation. 
The Court and Officers of the Nizamut were continued, but their 
Efficacy was destroyed by the Ruling Influence of the Dewannee. 


The regular Course of Justice was everywhere suspended ; but 
every man exercised it who had the Power of compeUing others 
to submit to his Dicisions. The People were oppressed ; they 
were discouraged, and disabled from improving the Culture of 
their Lands ; and in proportion as they had the demands of 
Individuals to gratify, they were prevented from discharging 
what was legally due to Government. 

Such was the State of the Revenue, when your Commands 
were received by the Lapwing, and happily removed the difficulties 
which had hitherto opposed the Introduction of a more perfect 
System, by abolishing the Office of Naib Dwan, and authorising 
your administration to assume openly the Management of the 
Dewannee in your Name, without any Foreign Intervention. 

In the Execution of these your Intentions, the points which 
claimed our principal attention, as will appear from the above 
Description, were to render the Accounts of the Revenue simple 
and intelligible, to establish Fixed Rates for the Collections, to 
make the Mode of them uniform in all parts of the Province, 
and to provide for an equal administration of Justice. In the 
steps which we have already taken, we have laboured to obtain 
these ends ; with what Success will be seen hereafter. 

The Regulations which we have before mentioned being com- 
pleated, and the Committee of Circuit appointed, consisting (as 
we mentioned in our last) of the Governor, Messrs. Middleton, 
Dacres, Lawrell, and Graham, We published our Intention of 
Farming all the Lands of the Province of Bengal, on Leases of 
Five Years, and invited all Persons to make Proposals. 

The Committee first proceeded to Kishennaggur, and there 
entered on the Settlement of the District of Nuddea.^ The Pro- 
posals which were delivered to them were expressed in so vague 
and uncertain a manner, and diffisred so widely from each other 
in Form, that it was impossible to make a comparison, or to 
ascertain the Proportional Amount of each ; and the few only 
that were intelligible, contained very low and disadvantageous 
Terms. The Committee were therefore of opinion that these 
Offers shou'd be rejected, and that the Lands shou'd be put up 
at Public Auction, tho' contrary to the original Intention. 

To remove all obstacles that might present themselves, from 
an uncertainty in the Bidders with respect to the more Minute 
' Proceedings of the i6th and 28tli June 1772. 

VOL. I. 2 B 

386 BENGAL /A^ 1772, PORTRAYED [Appx. A. 

Articles of the Collections, and the Grounds on which the 
Settlement was to be established between the Farmer and 
Cultivator, the Committee found it indispensably necessary 
before the Sale began, to form an entire new Hustabood, or 
Explanation of the diverse and complex articles which were to 
compose the Collections. These consisted of the Assail or 
Original Ground Rent, and a variety of Taxes called Aboabs, 
which had been indiscriminately levied at different periods by the 
Government, the Zemindars, Farmers, and even by the inferior 
Collectors. One of these Aboabs we have explained above ; 
many of them are incapable of any Explanation. 

After the Committee had made a through Investigation of 
the above articles of the Revenue, they proposed to deduct such 
as appeared most oppressive to the Inhabitants, or of a late 
Establishment, at the same time reserving those which were of 
long standing, and had been chearfully {sic) submitted to by the 
Ryotts, these being in fact a considerable part of the Neat Rents. 
Among the former were the Duties arbitrarily levied by the 
Zemindars and Farmers upon all Goods and Necessaries of Life 
passing by water thro' the interior part of the country. The 
Bazee Jumma, or Fines for petty crimes and misdemeanours, 
were also, agreably to the humane and equitable spirit of your 
Orders, totally abolished, as well as the Haldarry, or Tax upon 
Marriage, which yielded a trifling Revenue to the Government, 
was very injurious to the State, and could tend only to the dis- 
couragement and decrease of Population, — an object at all times 
of general Importance, but more especially at this Period, from 
the great Loss of Inhabitants which the countiy has sustained by 
the late Famine, and the mortality which attended it. These 
several Deductions in favour of the Natives, altho' the imme- 
diate cause of decreasing the Rent Roll, will doubtless in time be 
productive of the most salutary effects, as they tend to encourage 
the Manufactures and Trade of the country, to retrieve the loss 
of Inhabitants, to free the People from vexatious prosecutions, 
and by promoting the general Ease of the country, virtually to 
support and improve its Revenue. 

In order to secure the Inhabitants in the quiet Possession of 
the lands whilst they held them on terms of cultivation, and to 
prevent such Exactions as aforementioned in future, the Com- 
mittee formed new Amulnamas or Leases, in which the claims 


upon the Ryotts were precisely and distinctly ascertained, and 
the Farmers restricted from making any further Demands, under 
the severest Penalties, To this end, and to prevent the Farmers 
from eluding this restriction, they were ordered to grant new 
Pottahs, or Deeds, to the Ryotts, the Form of which was drawn 
out by the Committee and made public, specifying the conditions 
on which they were to hold their Land, the separate Heads or 
Articles of the Rents ; and every encouragement was contained in 
them to cultivate the waste ground on a moderate and increasing 

Another principal Object with the Committee was to reduce 
the Charges of Collection as low as possible, from a conviction 
that the retrenchment of improper and unnecessary Expences 
opens a source of Increase of Revenue the most eligible, because 
the most consistent with the ease of the Inhabitants. For this 
purpose We have formed an uniform and regular Establishment, 
for all the necessary Charges to be incurred in the Cutcherries of 
the several Districts, under positive Restrictions that they shall 
not be exceeded without our being previously advised. This, 
We doubt not, will prove a great saving to the Hon'ble Com- 
pany, as it will be the effectual means of preventing in future all 
superfluous and unnecessary Disbursements. And We think We 
may venture to promise that this Article will be duly attended 
to, as it will be almost the only Care of the Auditor to prevent 
every Deviation from it, in the Accounts which are to pass his 

After these previous steps were resolved on, the Lands of 
Kishenagur were put up to Public Auction, and a Final Settle- 
ment was made for Five Years, on an accumulating Increase, for 
the Particulars of which we must beg leave to refer you to the 
proceedings of the Committee, which are now transmitted. 

During the course of the sale at Kishennagur, the Rajah of 
that place gave in proposals for farming the whole District, 
which leads us to the following general observations on the 
Subject of Zemindars and Talookdars in the Province of Bengal. 

Where it can be done with propriety, the entrusting the Col- 
lections of the Districts to the Hereditary Zemindars wou'd be a 
measure we shou'd be very willing to adopt, as we believe that 
the People would be treated with more tenderness, the Rents 
more improved, and the Cultivation more likely to be encouraged, 

388 BENGAL IN 1772, PORTRAYED [Appx. A. 

the Zemindar less liable to failure or deficiencies than the 
Farmer, from the perpetual Interest which the former hath in 
the Country, and because his Inheritance cannot be removed, 
and it Avould be improbable he would risk the loss of it by eloping 
from his District, which is too frequently practised by a Farmer 
when he is hard pressed for the Payment of his Ballances, and is 
frequently predetermined when he receives his Farm. 

With respect to the Talookdarrys and inconsiderable Zemin- 
darrys, which formed a part of the Huzzoor Zilahs or Districts 
which paid their rents immediately to the General Cutcherry 
at Moorshedabad, as well as many others of the same kind in 
different parts of Bengal ; all Arguments have been weighed, 
whether in favour of the just Claim Government has upon their 
Lands for a Revenue adequate to their real Value, or of the 
Zemindars and Talookdars in support of their Rights and Prive- 
ledges, grounded upon the Possession of Regular Grants, a long 
series of family Succession, and fair purchase. These being duly 
considered, there occurred to us only the two following Modes 
which could be pursued in making their settlement. The First 
was to lett {sic) the Lands to Farm ; to put the Renters in entire 
Possession and Authority over them, obliging them to pay each 
Zemindar or Talookdar a certain allowance or percentage for the 
subsistence of himself and family. The Second was to settle 
with the Zemindars themselves on the footing of Farmers, obliging 
them first to enter into all the Conditions of a farmer's Lease ; 
Secondly, to pay the same Revenue that could be expected from 
Farmers ; Thirdly, to give responsible securities ; and Fourthly, 
to admit a reserve in favour of Government for making, during 
the course of their actual Lease, an exact Hustabood (Valuation 
from Accounts), or a Measurement of their Possessions, in order 
to ascertain their true Value at a future settlement, shou'd the 
present Accounts be found to be fallacious, or concealments 
suspected. We have allowed a degree of weight to the argu- 
ments of the Zemindars and Talookdars in favour of their plea 
of Right, which, by adopting the first mode of settlement, wou'd 
doubtless be exposed to Risk ; for as the Authority given to the 
Farmers wou'd reduce the present Incumbents to the level of 
mere Pensioners, and greatly weaken their claims as Proprietors, 
so in the course of a few long Leases, their Rights and Titles 
might, from the designs of the Farmers to establish themselves 


in their Estates, the death of the old Inheritors, and the succes- 
sion of Minors, be involved in such obscurity, doubt, and con- 
troversy, as to deprive them totally of their Inheritance. To 
expose the Zemindars and Talookdars to this risk, is neither 
consistent with our Notions of Equity, nor with your orders, 
which direct, ' that we do not by any sudden change alter the 
constitution, nor deprive the Zemindars, etc., of their antient 
priviledges and Immunities.' 

Another argument, drawn from the conduct naturally to be 
expected from the Zemindars and Talookdars, weighed strongly 
with us, and proves an objection to adopting the first Mode. 
From a long continuance of the Lands in their Families, it is to 
be concluded they have rivetted an authority in the District, 
acquired an Ascendency over the Minds of the Ryotts, and 
ingratiated their affections. From Causes like these, if entire 
Deprivation were to take place, there could not be expected less 
Material Effects than all the Evils of a divided Authority, preju- 
dicial to the Revenue, and Desertion and Desolation of the 
Lands. Whereas from continuing the Lands under the Manage- 
ment of those who have a natural and perpetual Interest in their 
Prosperity, provided their Value is not of too great an amount, 
solid Advantages may be expected to accrue. Every considera- 
tion then sways us, where it can be done with the prospect of 
the advantage before mentioned, to adopt the second mode in 
settling with the Inferior Zemindars and Talookdars. First, an 
equivalent Revenue may be thereby obtained, with security for 
its punctual Payment. Secondly, the converting them into 
Farmers establishes the Government's right of putting their 
Lands on that Footing, whenever they shall think proper ; the 
Awe of which must constantly operate to secure their good 
behaviour and good Management. Thirdly, the Clause of 
Scrutiny, to which they are subjected, will also have the same 
Tendency, at the same time that it may be strictly put in force 
where there is cause to suspect Concealments, or a prospect 
presents of Increase to the Revenue. 

Agreeably to these Ideas, the Committee at Kishennagur 
exempted the several Talooks in that District from the Public 
Sale, as the Possessors engaged to abide by such a Settlement as 
should be deemed equivalent and just ; and an exact valuation 
was accordingly made of their Lands. It was, however, found 

390 BENGAL IN 1772, PORTRAYED [Appx. A. 

that the Terms offered by the Zemindar of Kishennagur, as 
before mentioned, were not equivalent to the expectations the 
Committee had reason to Entertain from the PubUc Auction of 
the separate Farms, and the Faith of Government having already- 
been engaged to such Farmers whose offers had been formally 
accepted. For these Reasons, joined with the well-known subtle 
and faithless character of the Zemindar, it was determined to 
reject his proposals, and to give the Preference to the offer of 
the Farmers, which were more advantageous to Government. 

The Settlement of Kishennagur being concluded, a fixed 
Dewan was chosen by the Committee to be joined with the 
Collector in the Superintendancy of the Revenues, conformably 
to our Estabhshed Regulations before referred to ; and instruc- 
tions were accordingly given him for his guidance. 

We have been thus explicit in relating the Transactions at 
Kishenagur, both as these will serve to point out the various 
effects of our previous Determinations, as well as the Motives 
which gave Occasion to those which were superadded by the 
Committee, from local or general Observation, and to convey an 
Idea of the Plan on which the settlement of the whole Province 
will be formed, of which that of Kishenagur may be regarded as 
the Model. 

From Kishenagur the Committee proceeded to Cossimbazaar, 
and arrived there the beginning of July. One of their first objects 
was the regulating the Nabob's Household and Stipend, and the 
appointing of the necessary Officers for the Management of his 
Affairs. But as these Matters will be fully discussed in our 
Letter from the General Department, We shall confine this 
Address solely to the current Business of the Revenue. 

The Province of Radshahy and the Huzzoor Zilahs were 
taken next into Consideration, and the same Regulations estab- 
lished previous to their Settlement, as at Kisenagur. Public 
Advertisements being made for receiving Proposals for farming 
the different Purgunnahs in Radshahy, and a proper time limited 
for their delivery, the tenns given in for the whole of the Western 
Division were examined, and the Offers of the Farmers and 
Zemindar accurately compared. Those of the latter were found 
more advantageous to Government. A settlement for five years 
was accordingly concluded with the Ranny Bowanny, the Zemin- 
dar of that District, whose Substance, Credit, and Character 


rendered the Conditions of her Offer the more desireable, 
especially as she consented to the Committee's Plan of sub- 
dividing the Lands into fourteen Lots or Farms, and engaged to 
deposit the Farmer's Cabooleats or Agreements as a Collateral 
Security with her own, for the punctual Payment of her Rents. 
No other Proposals being given in for the Eastern Division of 
Radshahy, it was in like manner farmed to the zemindar, whose 
Knowledge of, and long-established Reputation in, the Country 
enabled her to make more advantageous Offers for this also than 
any other person ; and We doubt not that We shall realize the 
whole of the Revenue from these important and extensive Dis- 
tricts, which will receive an additional Advantage, besides a 
Reduction of the Expence of the Collections, in being thus united 
under the hereditary and ancient Proprietor. 

For the particular Reasons and Arguments urged in our 
several Proceedings, referred to in the margin, and which will 
be farther treated on in our Letter from the other Department, 
you will observe that We have found it expedient to annex to 
Mr. Middleton's Appointment of Resident of the Durbar and 
Chief of Cossimbazar, the Superintendency of the Collections of 
Radshahy, in the conducting of which, the whole being put under 
the immediate Management of the Zemindar, his only care as 
Collector will be to receive the monthly Kists as they may 
become due, to attend to the Complaints and Representations 
of the Ryotts, and to see that the Regulations which have been 
made are duly adhered to. 

The Huzzoor Zillahs, and the inferior Zemindaries and 
Talookdaries bordering on Moorshedabad and Rajshahy, were 
also settled on the same Plan, a Preference being always given 
to the Offers of the Hereditary Possessors as before observed. 
But as it would take up too much of your Time to descend to a 
minute Detail of these numerous Settlements, we must take the 
Liberty of referring you to the Proceedings of the late Committee 
of Circuit. You will therein notice that we have appointed five 
additional Collectors to superintend the Revenue of those Dis- 
tricts. It was with some reluctance we found ourselves under 
the necessity of increasing the Number of these Appointments. 
They were rendered unavoidable by the Intricacy of those parts 
of the Huzzoor Zilahs, which have been thus distributed amongst 
them ; but We hope that the Liberty which We have given to the 

392 BENGAL IN I'jiz, PORTRAYED [Appx. A. 

Farmers, who may be so disposed, to pay their Rents immediately 
to the Sadder or Head Cutcherry, will in time enable us lo reduce 
these Establishments. 

In the Intervals of Public Business, the Committee were 
employed in deliberating on the steps referred to them, which 
were proper to be taken for carrying into Execution your late 
Orders by the Lapwing, where you declare your Intention of 
Standing forth as Dewan by the Agency of the Company's 
Servants, to assume the ' entire Management of the Revenues,' 
leaving it to us to plan and execute this important Work, ' by 
adopting such Regulations, and pursuing such Measures, as 
should at once insure to the Company every possible Advantage.' 
The first Consideration was whether the Board of Revenue 
at Moorshedabad should be abolished, and the Business of the 
Collections in all its Branches, put under the management of the 
Members of your Administration at the Presidency; and after 
allo\ving due Weight to every Argument that occurred, AVe agreed 
unimously with the Committee in the Necessity of this last 
Measure, which has accordingly been since carried into Execu- 
tion. We take the Liberty of laying before you the Grounds 
upon which we have ventured to make this Alteration, in the 
flattering hopes that it will meet with your approval. 

As the Administration of Justice, and the Collection of the 
Revenue, are by far the most important object of Government, 
they certainly claim the first Attention of your President and 
Council, especially at a time when so many weighty matters, 
intimately connected with them, are entrusted by you to our 
Investigation and Judgment, and when the State of the Country 
requires timely, well-digested, and spirited Measures. While the 
Controuling and Executive Part of the Revenue, and the corre- 
spondence with the Collectors, was carried by a Council at Moor- 
shedabad, the Members of your Administration had not an 
opportunity of acquiring that thorough and comprehensive know- 
ledge of the Revenue, which can only result from practical 
Experience. But as your late orders tend to establish a new 
System, enjoin many new Regulations and Enquiries which could 
not properly be delegated to a Subordinate Council, it became 
absolutely necessary that the Business of the Revenue should be 
conducted under our immediate Observation and Direction. 
This change, We trust, will afford great Relief to the Inhabit- 


ants of the Provinces, in opening to them a more ready Access 
to Justice, insomuch that Appeals fiom the Decisions of the 
Inferior Courts may now be made directly to the Presidency, 
whereas formerly they were first transmitted to the Council at 
Moorshedabad, and from thence an Appeal lay to Us. 

Another good Consequence will be the great Increase of 
Inhabitants, and of Wealth in Calcutta, which will not only add 
to the Consumption of our most valuable Manufactures imported 
from home, but will be the means of conveying to the Natives a 
more intimate Knowledge of our Customs and Manners, and of 
conciliating them to our Policy and Government. 

Besides the Reasons above urged for the Dissolution of the 
Council at Moorshedabad, We must beg leave to add this farther 
Argument, in reply to the objection which may possibly be made 
to it as repugnant to your Commands of the 30th June 1769. 
We now conceive them, however, to be superseded by your later 
Orders and the Discretionary Power you have given us in your 
letter by the Lapwing. Nevertheless, we should have thought 
ourselves indispensably bound to have adhered to the Spirit of 
them, so far as they could be made to coincide with the new 
System of the Dewanny, but we found them totally subverted 
by it. 

While Moorshedabad remained the Seat of your Collections, 
every consideration required the Establishment of a Council to 
Superintend them, as it was a trust every way too great for an 
individual. On these grounds alone we presumed your Orders 
for forming such Councils at Moorshedabad and Patna were 
framed. But when the office of Naib Dwan was abolished, and 
you had declared your Resolution to place the Collections under 
the immediate charge of your own Servants, there remained no 
Reason for continuing that Department of the Revenue at such 
a distance from the Observation of your Governor and Council ; 
and the Removal of the Collection to the Presidency, as it left 
no Business for an inferior Council, of course rendered their con- 
tinuance, and the charges attending such an establishment, need- 
less. We will indulge ourselves, therefore, with another Hope, 
that an annual saving of some Lacks of Rupees will be derived 
from this alteration, altho' We are well aware of the Expence and 
Inconvenience which ever attends Innovations of all kinds on 
their first Institution. 

394 BENGAL IN Y^-jz, PORTRAYED [Appx. A. 

As the Reasons for the Removal of the Khalsa are treated on 
very largely in the Proceedings of the Committee of Circuit of 
28th July, and contain many Observations on the Nature of the 
Revenue in general, which are too voluminous to be inserted in 
the Body of this Letter, we wish to recommend these to your 
particular attention. 

The Plan which we have fonned for conducting the Business 
of the Khalsa, or Superior Office of the Collections, will go a 
Number in the Packet. 

The more regular Administration of Justice was also delibe- 
rated on by the Committee of Circuit, and a Plan was formed by 
them which afterwards met with our Approbation. We cannot 
give you a better Idea of the Grounds on which this was framed, 
than by referring you to a Copy of it, together with a Letter from 
the Committee to the Board on the Occasion, both of which 
make Numbers in this Packet ; and we earnestly recommend them 
to your Perusal, requesting to be assisted with such further 
Orders and Instructions thereon as they may require for com- 
pleating the system, which we have thus endeavoured to establish 
on the most equitable, solid, and permanent footing. We hope 
they will be read with that Indulgence which We are humbly of 
Opinion is due to a Work of this kind, undertaken on the plain 
Principles of Experience and common Observation, without the 
advantages which an intimate Knowledge of the Theory of Law 
might have afforded us. We have endeavoured to adapt our 
Regulations to the Manners and Understanding of the People, 
and Exegencies of the Country, adhering, as closely as We were 
able, to their Antient Usages and Institutions. It will be 
still a Work of some Months, We fear, before they can be 
thoroughly established throughout the Provinces ; but We shall 
think our Labors amply recompensed if they meet with your 
Approbation, and are productive of the good Effects we had in 

Our President returned to Calcutta about the middle of Sep- 
tember. Mr. Middleton remained at Moorshedabad to take 
charge of his Appointments, and the other three Members of the 
Committee of Circuit proceeded to Dacca, where they are now 
employed in making the Settlement of that Province and the 
adjacent Districts, after which they will continue their Tour to 
the remaining Divisions on the Eastern Side of Bengal ; and We 



hope to transmit the further Particulars of their Proceedings by 
one of the Ships of this Season, together with a Compleat State- 
ment of your Revenue for the following five Years. 

Besides the General Plan before mentioned for regulating the 
New System of conducting the Revenues, and the several other 
Points therein referred to, the Committee of Revenue at the 
Presidency, composed of the remaining Members of your Council, 
were employed in preparing the Settlements of the Districts of 
Hougly, Midnapore, Beerbhoom, Jessore, and the Calcutta 
Lands. These, together with the Districts allotted to the Com- 
mittee of Circuit, compleat the whole of Bengal, excepting 
Burdwan, where the Lands are already lett in Farm, on Leases 
of five years, which do not expire till the end of the Bengal year 
1182 (a.d. 1775). 

In consequence of the Public Advertisement for making the 
Settlement of Hougly, a number of Proposals for farming the 
Lands were delivered in ; and after an exact scrutiny was made 
into them, those which appeared to be the most advantageous to 
Government were accepted. It was originally intended to have 
lett them in small Farms ; but the Offers for large Lots being 
much higher than the others, We were tempted to prefer them. 
There were likewise many Talookdarries and petty Zemindarries 
Ysx this District, the Possessors of which represented to us the 
Length of Time they had held their Lands, and the wretched 
condition they would be reduced to were they now to be de- 
prived of them. As they engaged to pay to Government an 
increased Rent in proportion to their value, We were induced by 
the same Motives as actuated the Committee of Circuit in similar 
Instances to continue to them their hereditary Possessions. In 
one or two of the Purgunnas some Deductions were found neces- 
sary to be made, on account of the particular degree in which 
they had suffered by the late Famine ; but a favourable increase 
being added to the other Purgannas, We have reason to be satis- 
fied with the good success which has attended the Settlement of 
Houghly and its Dependancies. 

The Settlement of Beerbhoom, Bissenpoor, and Pacheat has 
also been effected upon an increasing Revenue, on a Plan similar 
to the other Farmed Lands. 

The Districts of Jessore and Mahomed Shahy are Settled on 
Terms advantageous to Government, as appears by the Accounts 

396 BENGAL IN i-ni, PORTRAYED [Appx. A. 

delivered in by Mr. Lane, a Member of our Board, who was 
deputed to accoinplish that Business ; and a full Representation 
of his Proceedings is recorded on {sic) our Consultation of the 
loth of August. 

By the Proceedings it appears that the Calcutta Lands have 
been compleatly farmed ; but as some of the Farmers have flo\TO 
off from their Engagements and absconded, and the Execution of 
the Title Deeds with the rest is delayed, We have hitherto been 
prevented from finally adjusting this Business. We shall there- 
fore defer transmitting a further Statement of these Lands till the 
next Ship, as well as that of Midnapoor, the settlement of which 
is now in great fonvardness. 

In pursuance of your positive Injunctions, We have been 
endeavouring for some time past to collect the fullest Information 
concerning the Salt Business in Bengal, that we may be enabled 
to form such Regulations as shall appear the best calculated for 
securing the Duties of Government upon that article, and for the 
general Benefit of the Trade. For our Proceedings in these 
Matters, so far as we have hitherto been able to effect, we refer 
you to the Consultations now transmitted, and particularly to 
that of the 7th October. And as this subject is one of the first 
that will fall under our Consideration, We expect in our next 
Advices to furnish you with a Compleat State of it. 

The Hougly disputed Ballancies of Salt, which have been 
a Matter of Contention and Difficulty for these two years past, 
We have at length happily adjusted, as recorded in our Pro- 
ceedings of the I St of October. 

The Bukshbunder or Customs at Hougly, as well as those of 
the Pachetra at Moorshedabad, have not been lett to farm, but 
continue to be collected by the Officers of Government, in order 
that no Obstacles may occur in New-modelling this Source of 
your Revenue agreeably to your Instructions. At present 
we wait for Advices and further Lights from the Committee 
of Circuit at Dacca concerning the Shawbunder, or Head 
Custom House, in that District. Being furnished with these. 
We shall proceed to form one general and uniform Plan for 
the Collection of Duties, which \vill be duly transmitted for your 

The humane Attention shown in your Commands of the 30th 
June 1769, and recommended in many of your Letters since that 


Date, to the Rights of the Zemindars who have inherited Lands 
from their Ancestors, encourages us to soUcit your Compassion 
for the antient Proprietors of the Twenty-four Pergunnas, or Cal- 
cutta Lands, which became the Company's Zemindarry by the 
Treaty of Plassey, and from which they were consequently dis- 
possessed. A small Part of their Lands were before that Time 
united with the Zemindarries of Burdwan and Nuddea, whose 
Zemindars are amply provided for. The other Zemindars and 
Taalindars (sic) have continued since that Time in a State of 
extreme Indigence. Some of them have large families to main- 
tain. It has been the usual Rule of the Mogul Government, 
when any Zemindar was divested of authority, to allow him a 
Substance out of the Rents of his Zemindarrie proportioned to 
the annual Income of it. This Proportion commonly ammounted 
to One Tenth. We would not recommend so large an Allow- 
ance for these people. We are persuaded that they Avill be con- 
tented with a much more moderate income, and receive it with 
Gratitude. As this Indulgence has been extended to all the 
other Zemindars in both the Provinces since they were placed 
under your Government, We have judged that this Representa- 
tion of the Case of those who alone have been excluded from 
it would not be unacceptable to you. 

As the Settlement of the Province of Bahar had been made 
for a Term of Years, and therefore did not require any immediate 
Alteration, We shall wait to finish the whole of our Regulations 
in Bengal before we attempt any Innovation in that Province. 
The only point on which We think We can give you any previous 
Intimation of our future Proceedings in those Parts is, that we 
deem it proper to unite the Collections with those of Bengal, and 
establish the same Regulations in both Provinces, as soon as We 
can do it with conveniency, and without adding to our present 

In the Proceedings of our Committee of Revenue of the loth 
May is recorded the Particulars of a Dispute which subsisted 
between the late Council of Revenue at Moorshedabad and the 
Supervisor of Dinagepore, Mr. Henry Cottrell, the Consequence 
of which was the recalling the latter from his Appointment. The 
several Arguments urged against his Conduct by the Council of 
Revenue at Moorshedabad, as Avell as his Letter in Vindication 
of himself, appear fully in the above Proceedings ; and we must 



[Appx. a. 

beg leave to refer you to them, that you may form such a Judge- 
ment of this Affair as your Candor and Justice may point out. 
We are, with great Respect, Hon'ble Sirs, Your most faithful 
humble Servants, 

(Signed) Warren Hastings.^ 

R. Barker. 

W. Aldersey. 

Thomas Lane. 

RiCHD. Barwell, 

James Harris. 

H. Goodwin. 
Fort-William, the T^d Noz'ember 1772. 

^ The chief portions of this letter are from Warren Hastings' own 




Section I. — Selections from General Letters from Bengal {the 
more important in full). 

2^th September 1769. — Paras. 20 to 27. Devastations of the 
enemy and want of rain for many months had rendered grain so 
exceedingly scarce at Madras, that that Government had become 
apprehensive of the -most distressing consequences. Measures 
were taken to supply their wants from Bengal, but scarcity had 
prevailed also in Bengal. The Lord Holland was lost on her 
way down to Madras with a cargo of rice, and a second supply 
would be forwarded. 

2,0th September 1769. — Para. 53. Revenues of the provinces 
of Bengal and Behar were expected to fall short, owing to the 
very unusual scarcity of grain. 

23^ November 1769. — Paras. 8 to 10. — 8. 'It is with great 
concern, Gentlemen, that we are to inform you that we have a 
most melancholy prospect before our eyes of universal distress for 
want of grain. ^ Owing to an uncommon drought that has pre- 
vailed over every part of the country, insomuch that the oldest 
inhabitants never remembered to have known anything like it, 
and as to threaten a famine. 

9. ' As there is the greatest probability that this distress Avill 
encrease, and a certainty that it cannot be alleviated for six 
months to come, we have ordered a stock of grain sufficient to 
serve our army for that period, to be laid up in proper store- 
houses ; and we have taken and shall pursue every means in our 
power to relieve the miserable situation the poor inhabitants 
must be involved in from this dreadful calamity; but we cannot 
* This letter is not signed by the Governor, Mr. Verelst. 

400 GREAT FAMINE OF \^^o, [Appx. B. 

flatter ourselves that all our endeavours will prevent very fatal 
effects being felt, or that human means can check its baneful 

Para. lo anticipates a falling off of the revenue, and a pro- 
bable necessity for an abatement ; but excepting this (which was 
most imperfectly carried out), no specific relief measures are 
specified, nor were any undertaken till long after. 

'z^th January 1770. — Paras. 48 to 50. — 48. 'We are sorry to 
acquaint you that the apprehensions which we expressed to you 
in our letter of the 23d November last regarding the consequence 
of the uncommon drought that hath prevailed are confirmed, and 
this general calamity is severely felt in all the provinces. The 
Collector-General hath laid before us a representation on this 
occasion from the Raja and Resident of Burdwaun, proposing a 
remission to be made in the rents this year ; and so sensible are 
we of the melancholy truth of what they set forth, that we have 
been induced to grant a remission to the farmers of the Burd- 
waun province of about 2-|- or 3 laacks of rupees, taking care 
that they also extend it to the ryuts ; and at the time of granting 
it, bring both the farmers and ryuts under engagements that the 
same shall be replaced, at certain periods, along with their rents of 
next year'' — [In reality, less than a single lac, or only ^^82 18, was 
remitted, and even this had to be paid up at the commencement 
of the next year (znde post. pp. 403 and 406)] ; ' and we have 
desired the Collector-General to adopt this system in the Cal- 
cutta lands, which equally require the same indulgence. 

49. ' By this method we hope to relieve the farmers and the 
ryuts, who in this time of dearth and distress claim all the 
indulgence and assistance that we can afford ; and we also hope 
that, by this method, you will only suffer a temporary inconveni- 
ence, not a total loss, and that if the next should be a plentiful 
year these remissions will be recovered.' 

a^th February 1770. — Para. 5. 'In Bengal we have not yet 
found any failure in the revenue or stated payments j but we 
must not flatter ourselves, in a country where the labourer 
depends merely on the coming in of the harvest, not on any 
established or accumulate property, that he can always pay the 
full demands of Government; neither can we, with any regard 
to justice or consequences, insist on it.' 

g//^ May 1770 — Secret. — Para. 3. ' If the internal prosperity 


of these provinces corresponded with our external security, we 
should be happy ; but it is far otherwise. Not a drop of rain 
has fallen in most of the districts for six months. The famine 
which has ensued, the mortality, the beggary, exceed all descrip- 
tion. Above one-third of the inhabitants have perished in the 
once plentiful province of Purneah, and in other parts the misery 
is equal. The Supravisor of Behar has represented to our 
Resident, that the harvest, which in that province is gathered 
during the months of March and April, has yielded but a scanty 
return ; that the price of grain has risen even since the harvest ; 
and that it is absolutely necessary to remove the brigade from 
Bankypore beyond the Curamnapa, to save the lives of many 
poor people who might be subsisted from what the brigade con- 
sumed. Though it was the last necessity that induced the Supra- 
visor of Behar to make this proposal, yet your orders against it 
are so strong, the season so fatal to Europeans on a march, the 
policy of keeping our troops as near as possible to the Presidency 
so obvious, and the consequences of being involved in the same 
difficulties with the king from which we have been but lately 
freed so much to be dreaded, that however advisable it appears 
in other respects, Ave could not with propriety adopt that method 
of relief We have, however, consented to remove two battalions 
and the cavalry from the cantonments to the Fort of Buxar, there 
to encamp, which will be attended with some alleviation to the 
distresses of Patna,^ and with no disagreable consequences to 
your political interest. On the contrary, since the king and 
vizier have resumed an intimate correspondence and intercourse 
with us, we have thought it no unfavourable occasion to bind 
them faster to us, by interpreting this motion of your troops into 
a zeal for their honour and support against all aggressors.' 

22,th June 1770. — Para. 2. ' Few alterations have happened 
during this short interval. The famine of which we have already 
given you an unexaggerated description has continued to rage 
with all its fatal consequences ; and notwithstanding all our efforts 
to administer relief by public contribution to the poor, remis- 
sion of the collections, and importations from the neighbouring 
provinces, we have beheld the calamity daily increasing. Your 
revenues must suffer from it both now and in future ; but no 

1 But in the same degree an aggravation of the distress at Buxar, in the 
very centre of tire most cruelly stricken districts. 

VOL. I. 2 C 

402 GREAT FAMINE OF \i^o, [Appx. B. 

endeavours shall be omitted on our parts to render this evil as 
light and as temporary as possible.' 

l\st Ajigust 1770. — Para. 14. ' If the accounts transmitted in 
our letter of the 9th May last of the general calamity which 
famine had extended to almost every part of these provinces were 
truly alarming, how much more so must they now be, when we 
inform you that our miseries have been daily increasing to the 
present period ; nor do we view relief but as a distant prospect. 
It naturally follows that, from so calamitous an event, great 
failures in the collection of the revenue must be the inevitable 
consequence ; but still we are willing to hope they will not be so 
great as our apprehensions have conceived.' 

nth September 1770. — Para. 4. 'In the several letters from 
this committee, we have endeavoured to give a very faithful, 
candid, and impartial account of the distress this country has 
suffered from the severity of a famine ; indeed, it is scarcely 
possible that any description could be an exaggeration of the 
misery the inhabitants of it have encountered with. It is not 
then to be wondered that this calamity has had its influence on 
the collections ; but we are happy to remark they have fell less 
short than we supposed they would when a famine was only 
apprehended, and when we could form no idea to what a pitch of 
misery the country would be reduced. 

5. ' From the annual accounts received within these few days 
from our Resident at the Durbar, we find that the neat sum col- 
lected is sicca rupees one crore thirty-eight laack [sic) two thousand 
six hundred and ninety-three nine annoes and ten pie (Sa. Rs. 
1,38,02,693:9:10);' (but an additional sum of Rs. 2,03,337 was 
also wrung out of the people, making a total of Rs. 1,40,06,030 j) 
' that sicca rupees eight laack three thousand three hundred and 
twenty-one, fifteen annoes (Sa. Rs. 8,03,321 : 15) have been obliged 
to be totally remitted in the different provinces, to alleviate the 
distress of the wretched inhabitants' (i.e. a paltry deduction of 
5 per cent, from the revenue in a province that had losf 35 per 
cent, of its population) ; ' and that a balance of sicca rupees six 
laak fourteen thousand two hundred and nineteen, eight annas 
(Sa. Rs. 6,14,219:8), remains to be collected of last year's agree- 
ment; that at the new Purneah, which commenced on the loth 
April 1770, a new statement was made of one crore, fifty-two 
laak, forty-five thousand nine hundred seventy-nine rupees, fifteen 


annoes twelve pies (1,52^45,979:15:2) for Bengal' (being an 
increase of 10 per cent, during the year of famine !), 'which our 
Resident, from the authority of Mahomed Reza Cawn, gives us 
some faint hopes of realising, should the season prove favour- 
able, notwithstanding the loss the country has sustained in the 
number of inhabitants.' 

24/// December 1770. — Para. 22. ' The famine having entirely 
ceased, and there being such an earnest of a plentiful crop that 
there is already great quantity of grain in this place, and a pro- 
spect of much abundance in a short time, we have recommended 
, it to the Board to lay in a quantity of provisions in the new Fort, 
to answer any emergencies, and this we hope wall be done at a 
very cheap rate.' 

\2th Feh-uary 177 1. — Paras. 43 and 44. — 43. ' In our letter of 
the 25th January 1770, by the Grafton, we informed you that, on 
account of the famine which prevailed throughout the country, 
we had made a remission to the farmers in the Burdwaun pro- 
vince of about 2\ or 3 lacks of rupees, on condition that they 
should discharge it at certain periods, with the rents of the next 

44. ' But the Collector-General has represented to us that 
the great increase of the famine since that period has been the 
cause of such a mortality and desertion amongst the ryotts, 
as to deprive the farmers of a possibility of receiving the rents 
that had been allowed to run in arrear ; and that therefore, 
if some reduction of the sum remitted was not made, many 
of the farmers would be ruined. On a scrutiny made by Mr. 
Stuart, it appeared that the farmers had lost by the death or 
desertions of the ryots, 82,180 rupees of the above 3 lacks. 
As it was not expected, when this temporary remission was 
allowed, that the famine would have been so fatal, and as it 
appeared but equitable that the farmers should be relieved of 
the payment of sums which they could not collect from the 
ryotts, we authorised the Collector-General to allow the far- 
mers the sum above specified, should it be found on a further 
scrutiny that it could not with justice be reduced.' (In reality, 
the remission was reduced to nothing, for the whole was paid 
up. Vide post. p. 406.) 

12//^ February 17 71. — Para. 2. 'Notwithstanding the great 
severity of the late famine, and the great reduction of people 

404 GREAT FAMINE OF i^To, [Appx. B. 

thereby, some increase has been made in the settlements both of 
the Bengal and Bahar provinces for the present year ; and we 
hope, as the country recovers itself in succeeding years, a much 
larger increase may be made without oppressing the ryotts. 
From the progress already made in the collections, and from 
the attention and vigilance of the Councils of Revenue, and 
the supravisors in the different districts, we hope the amount 
of revenue fixed for the present year will be in great measure 
realised ; though in some particular parts, where the loss of 
inhabitants has been greatest, and in others where the suc- 
ceeding crop has been destroyed by the overflowing of the river, 
we are apprehensive deficiencies will be unavoidable.' 

L2th April 1771.- — P.S. to 2d April. 'We must likewise 
inform you that great progress has been made on the fortifi- 
cations since our engineer's last report, considering the immense 
difficulty we have found in procuring a sufficient number of 
coolies, owing to the mortality which has in general fallen on 
the lower ranks of people in Bengal.' 

\oth Jaimary 1772. — Paras. 15-19. — 15. 'We are sorry to 
find ourselves under the necessity of apologizing for a very 
considerable mistake committed in the information we gave 
you as to the state of balances of last year, under direction of 
the Council of Revenue at Moorshedabad. It proceeded from 
inserting the amount of balances at the end of March for the 
balance of the year. We now beg leave to correct so con- 
siderable an error, and it is with pleasure we inform you that 
the neat balance of last year's settlement of that department 
amounts only to rupees eighteen lacks, thirty-eight thousand 
six hundred and sixty-one, four annas, two gundas, and three 
cowries.' (The balance was subsequently reduced to twelve 
lacs, or less than the increase which had been made to the revenue 
during the famine year.) 

16. 'We have likewise the pleasure to observe that the col- 
lections in each department of revenue are as successfully 
carried on for the present year as we could have wished ; and 
from the favourableness of the season, we have no doubt that 
they will be nearer completed to the amount of their different 
settlements than in any of the preceding years. 

17. 'The statement of the Bahar collections for the Bengal 
year 1178, or 1770-71, we have received since our last advices ; 


and we find, to our great satisfaction, that they have amounted 
to Rs. 43,61,651:0:6, exckisive of extra collections arising 
from the balances of former years' Tegarry, profit on interest and 
batta, etc., wliich amount to Rs. 2,65,044 : 10 : o ; the total of 
the collections making the sum of Rs. 46,26,695 : 10 : o.' 

18. From which it appears that the amount (collected during 
the year of famine) has exceeded the receipts in the preceding 
year by Rs. 4,25,747 : 9 : 3, not including the above sum received 
on account of extra collections. 

Section IL — Representations from Native Correspondence 
regarding the Famine ^1770. 

Maharajah Shitab Roy. — Received \th January 1770. — -'Such 
is the scarcity of grain in this province, that fifty poor wretches 
in a day perish with famine in the streets of Patna.' The 
calamity is more severely felt in the districts. The 40,000 
maunds of rice ordered from Dacca has not arrived for the 
troops at Bankipore. Urges that expedition be used in for- 
warding supplies for the troops, that they may not consume 
the produce of the province, which is not enough for the in- 

From Riijuf Khan, Fonjdar. — Received April 13, 1770. — Has 
* collected what the country produced,' though the Khureef 
harvest was almost ruined by the drought; but 'the Rubbee 
{i.e. spring harvest) proving more favourable,' he ' completed 
the assignments.' 

From Mahomed Reza Cawn. — Received \^th May 1770. — 'To 
this hour I have laboured, as well in the collections as in every 
other branch, with the diligence and attention of the most faith- 
ful well-wisher ; and as far as the fallible nature of mankind 
would admit, I have been guilty of no omission. But as there 
is no remedy against the decrees of Providence, how shall I 
describe the misery of the country from the excessive droughts, 
the dearness and scarcity of grain hitherto, but now a total 
failure ? The tanks and springs are dried up, and water grows 
daily more difficult to be procured. Added to these calami- 
ties, frequent and dreadful fires have happened throughout the 
country, impoverished whole families, and destroyed thousands 
of lives. The small stores of grain which yet remained at Raje 
Gunge, Dewan Gunge, and other places within the districts of 

4o6 GREAT FAMINE OF Y-j^o, [Appx. B. 

Dinagepore and Poorneah, have been consumed by fire. Be- 
fore, each day furnished accounts of the fate of thousands ; but 
notwithstanding, some hopes were still left that during the months 
of April and May we should be blessed with rain, and the poor 
ryotts able to till their ground ; but to this hour not a drop has 
fallen. The coarse crop which is gathered at this season is 
entirely spoilt, and the seed for the August crop is sown during 
the months of April and May. It is now the middle of the 
latter month, and they have not begun for want of rain. Even 
now, by the help of a few showers, something might be done. 
If the scarcity of grain and want of rain had been confined to 
one spot of the province, mianagement and attention might find 
a remedy ; but when the evil is total, there can be no remedy 
but in the mercy of God. I know not what the divine will has 
ordained shall befal this country. The calamity is past the 
ingenuity of man. The Almighty alone can deliver us from such 

From Mahomed Reza Caiun. — Received 2d June 1770. — Not- 
withstanding the droughts which have prevailed, he has, by 
exerting his utmost abilities, collected the revenue of 1770, 'as 
closely as so dreadful a season would admit.' ' The remainder,' 
he adds, ' cannot be collected without evident ruin to the ryotts, 
desolation to the country, and a heavy loss in the ensuing year.' 
(Nevertheless, we have seen that almost the whole was eventually 

Rajah Tejchund of Burdwaun, in a letter dated 14th May 
1 77 1, states that, notwithstanding 'the hardships and distresses 
that have befallen the ryots, the poor, and the inhabitants of this 
country from the famine,' ' the revenues have been collected with- 
out balance.' 

Section III. — Abstracts of the Consultations of the 
Government of Bengal. 

Cojisultation of the 23^ Odober 1769. — Owing to the scarcity, a 
stock of grain is to be laid in for the army. The amount required 
will be 120,000 maunds in six months. This must be provided 
from countries where there were the most plentiful crops, and 
which have suffered least from the drought. 

The Chief and Consul of Patna to provide 80,000 maunds, of 
which mds. 60,000 to be sent to the city for Burrampore and 

Appx. B.] described BY EYE-WITNESSES. 407 

Patna, and mds. 20,000 for the troops at the Presidency. (N.B. 
Patna, from which this supply was drawn, was one of the most 
cruelly stricken districts.) 

Resident at the Durbar to procure mds. 40,000 from Dinage- 
pore and Poorneah, carefully attending to the wants of the dis- 
tricts whence they draw the supplies. (N.B. Poorneah, whence 
this supply was drawn, lost ' above one-third ' of its inhabitants 
during the next six months.) 

Storehouses to be built at the city and Patna. Cautions as to 
fire and other accidents. 

Residents at the Durbar, and supravisors of the Behar collec- 
tions, to prevent monopolies of grain. Cultivation of pulse, grain, 
barley, and grains of the dry season to be encouraged, and every 
means to be taken which can be thought of to supply the want 
of rice. 

A committee of the Collector- General, the Buxey, and Ze- 
mindar, to lay down regulations for the prevention of monopoly 
and the relief of the inhabitants. 

Consultation of the \,\th November 1769. — The Dacca chief 
and council request Rs. 60,000. Sanctioned, and the deputation 
of Mr. Sumner into Barkergunj to buy grain approved. 

Consultatio7i of the 14M November 1769. — Arrangements were 
made to obtain labour in the fort in construction at Calcutta, by 
supplying the workmen with grain at cheap rates. Difficulties 
were said to be thrown in the way by the dealers. 

19,000 maunds were in store (or less than a single brigade's 
consumption during three months). Further supplies were expected 
from different parts of the country. It was proposed to supply a 
seer of rice a-day a-head to persons labouring on the fortifications, 
at cost price and charges, the difference in their favour to be paid 
them in cowries : thus they would get it 40 per cent, cheaper than 
in the Bazaar. The scarcity is likely to continue for eight months, 
increasing in intensity. Mds. 49,000 might be required for 8000 
coolies : so much besides that in store had been ordered, and 
more supplies can be drawn from Chittagong. 

The Buxey to have always mds. 20,000 in store for the use of 
the garrison. Fort St. George may be in condition now to supply 
rice. Fort Marlborough cannot be supplied from Bengal. Chit- 
tagong must be pressed for further supplies. Fort St. George 
was written to (but in fact it was Bengal that had sent supplies 

4o8 GREAT FAMINE OF IT ^o, [Appx. B. 

to Madras, not Madras to Bengal, until the close of the 

Consultation of the 20th November 1769. — Representation of 
the Raja of Burdvvaun. Drought and dearness of grain. Crop 
parched, and cut up for fodder for the cattle. Tanks dry. 
Water insufficient for the inhabitants. Rubbee harvest backward, 
and without rain will be destroyed. Ryuts deserting in large 

Resident at the Durbar states that relief has been obtained 
from the prohibition of monopoly ; but there is an alarming 
prospect of the province becoming desolate in the ensuing season, 
from flight of the ryuts and want of cultivation. This communi- 
cation has been deferred for fear of causing alarm ; but duty and 
humanity require that the distresses of the country be brought to 
notice. South, they were blessed with rain ; but northward the 
rice crop has been in some places totally lost, and the greatest 
part of it in others. Rivers dry, and tanks drained. The ryuts 
cannot cultivate cotton, mulberry, grain, pease, barley, tobacco, 
or beht root. Hence the flight of ryuts to become day-labourers 
where they can earn a subsistence. Unless a remedy can be 
found, this must result in loss of revenue. 

Consultation of the 6th December 1769. — The collections are 
equal to those of former years, notwithstanding the drought ; but 
this cannot be expected to continue. The Resident expects to 
send down 2000 coolies. 500 have been engaged for six months, 
but at high rates of wages. 

Consultation of the 12th December 1769. — Chief and council of 
Chittagong promise every effort to relieve the scarcity. 

Consultation of the \'ith January 1770. — Fort St. George pro- 
mises to supply Fort Marlboro with grain, if not obtained direct 
from the Malabar coast. They have promise of a plentiful crop 
from the late rains. 

Consultation of the iT^th Feh'uary 1770. — Resident at the 
Durbar proposes to distribute rice at six places at the rate of half 
a seer a-day for each person. Europeans and their gomashtas 
are forestalling. They should be prohibited purchasing till after 
next August in the provinces which supply the city. The eastern 
districts will supply Calcutta. Orders are issued for 40,000 
maunds of rice for the troops at Berhampore. 

Consultation of the 26th February 1770. — Matters are left to 


the Resident's 'prudence and impartiality,' sanctioning remissions 
repayable in preference to abatement of revenue and tuccavee. 

Coiisiilfation of the 27/// March 1770. — The proposed supplies 
of rice not arrived from Backergunge. 

Civisultatioii of the yi April 11 'jo. — The Buxey reports mds. 
33,913 have arrived from Backergunge. Mds. 25,657 of the 
August crop (indifterent in quality) have been ordered to be sold, 
but in small parcels. 

Consultation of the T,d April 1770. — At the instance of Messrs. 
Russell, Floyer, and Hare (3d April 1770), fifty maunds of rice 
per day, in addition to the merchants' assistance, have been 
ordered to be distributed in charity in Calcutta, and twenty to 
twenty-five maunds a-day in Burdwaun. 

Consultation of the \dfth Angnst 1770. — The Council refuse any 
assistance to the French colony at Chandernagore, on the ground 
that they have not sufficient for a day's consumption in stock. 

Consultation of the \()th September 1770. — Deficiency of the 
Maldah investment, in consequence of the severe drought which 
has prevailed there, which has swept away many of the inhabit- 
ants, and so enfeebled those that remain, that there is not half 
the quantity of cloths prepared this year as the last. 

Constiltation of the 22c/ October 1770. — Difficulty with the 
French at Lushypore, in consequence of an endeavour to smuggle 
out a small quantity of rice. 

Consultation of the 14M November 1770. — ' The famine having 
now entirely ceased, and there being not only a great abundance, 
but also a prospect of a most plentiful harvest,— 

' Agreed — That the embargo on rice be taken off, and that a 
publication be issued to that purpose.' 

Section IV. — Abstracts of Extracts front the Proceedings of the 
Provincial Council of Moorshedabad. 

Consultation of the 27/// September 1770. — The Nawab should 
be supported vigorously in his collections from the Bhadoon 
(September) harvest, that there may be no loss, as might be ap- 
prehended in the present impoverished state of the country. 

ConsTcltation of the /\th October 1770. — Letter from Mr. Grose, 
Supravisor of Behar, dated Govindgunge, 26th September 1770 : 
— Notwithstanding rain had fallen, the greatest part of the land is 
uncultivated, in consequence of ryuts absconding and leaving only 

4IO GREAT FAMINE OF \^']o, [Appx. B. 

a dissatisfied portion of the population. Paddy flourishes, and 
the harvest \vould have been plentiful if cultivation had pro- 

Letter from the Supravisor of Rungpore, dated 26th September: 
— The distresses of the poor continue very great. A number of 
miserable objects daily apply for relief. Five rupees' worth of 
rice are daily distributed amongst the most needy. Ten rupees' 
worth had been previously distributed. The Provincial Council 
sanctions this expenditure. [Ten shillings a-day among 400,000 
starving beings ! ] 

Consultation ofihe\']th October 1770. — Mr. Ducarel, Supravisor 
of Poorneah, in a letter dated loth October 1 771, complains of 
Sepoys being sent by Colonel Champion to purchase grain for 
the troops at Monghyr, although exportation from his district is 
prohibited. At the present time of distress and failure of the 
August crops, he hopes that the supplies for Monghyr may be 
obtained in the ordinary Avay through the ordinary native mer- 
chants, not by armed troops. 

Consultation of the 23c/ October 1770. — Mr. Higginson, Supra- 
visor of Beerbhoom, in a letter dated i8th October 1770, reports 
that the lands managed by Shickdars are heavily in balance. 
They are represented to be ' in such a barren and depopulated 
state, from the bad effects of the famine,' as to preclude the hope 
of finding farmers ; nevertheless, he expects an increase in the 
collections, and to make a considerable one next year. 

Consultation of the dth November 1770.— In the late famine, 
Calcutta was well supplied with grain at a time when the places 
where it was brought from were almost destitute. The rate of 
wages — six or eight annas a-month for a labourer {i.e. besides 
a certain allowance of food) — ' is calculated for a time when rice 
is at two or three maunds for a rupee.' * If they cannot procure 
their subsistence at an adequate price, they and their families 
either go off to other countries, where they have higher wages or 
provisions cheaper;' and 'if the exportation of grain is now 
made general,' gomashtas and merchants will ' buy it up at a 
price at which the working people cannot purchase it even for 
their subsistence.' — Letter from the Supravisor of Poonieah. 

Consultation of the 26th November 1770. — The Naib Diwan 
complains of difficulties in providing the silk investment. From 
the calamities of the season and extraordinary famine, many of 


the ryuts are dead for want of subsistence, many houses are 
depopulated, and the remaining inhabitants are utterly incapable 
of industry or exerting themselves to cultivate. Mr. Harwood, 
Supravisor of Raj Mahal, when sending the abstract Bundobust 
for the current year, alludes to the ' impoverished, ruined, and 
miserable state ' of the districts under his management. 

Consultation of the 2W1 November 1770. — Rajah Kusum 
Chund of Nuddeah reports the ' death and desertion of many of 
the ryots' owing to the famine. 

Consultation of the i-^th Deceinber 1770. — Mr. Ducarel, Supra- 
visor of Poorneah, reporting on the present settlement for three 
years at an increase, says : ' Had I known of the famine, and 
mortality of the inhabitants which followed, I never would have 
made a Bundobust (i.e. arrangement) for three years, or with an 
increase.' Of four of the Purgunnahs, after personal visitation, he 
says, that ' there having been little or no harvest, the people either 
perished or went elsewhere for subsistence ; and they {i.e. the 
lands) were really sunk in one year almost half their value ; on 
which point I should not have been satisfied if I had not received 
every proof that the closest examination could give me. They 
are now really lying waste for want of inhabitants, particularly 
Huveiee Poorneah, which contained more than 1000 villages ; 
and it is the deficiency which takes place here that renders the 
Poorneah revenue less this year than heretofore.' 

Further on, Mr. Ducarel adds as follows : — 

' The Gunge, called Alumgunge, the principal receipts of which 
depended on the consumption of grain in the town, has declined 
greatly by reason of the considerable decrease of inhabitants 
during the last famine, a great part of the town having become 
a jungle, and literally a refuge for wild beasts. 

' In respect to the improvement of the country, I must, in 
answer, premise that, according to the attested accounts I have 
received from the Pergunnahs, there have perished near two 
lacks (i.e. 200,000) of people in this district. Except the effects 
of this loss (be it more or less), I can safely give it as my opinion 
that the country is improving.' 

Consultation of the 20th December 1770. — Letter from Mr. 
Reed of Moorshedabad states that in Dacca, Poorneah, and 
Hooghly, collections are regularly kept up, and some of them 
paid in advance ! The rest of the supravisors give reason to 

412 GREAT FAMINE OF X110, [Appx. B. 

expect that the revenue of the province in general will be duly 
collected, ' excepting in some few places.' 

Consiiltatio7i of the \\th December 1770. — The rice from 
Barkergunge, Mr. Becher observed, arrived at a most critical 
time ; and ' the Company has reaped a considerable benefit by a 
measure which proved a general relief to the ivwiediate dependants 
on the English here, and tended to preserve order and regularity ;' 
otherwise, ' the greatest confusion must have ensued.' 

Distribution of rice amongst the miserable objects in and 
near the city was sanctioned by the committee to the amount of 
Rs. 87,000 ; Rs. 40,000 paid by the Company, and Rs. 47,000 
by the Nawab. The charge was exceeded. ' The famine and 
its dreadful consequences increased considerably as the season 
advanced ; rice rose from ten to three seers per rupee ; and 
neither humanity nor policy would admit of a stop being put to 
the distribution earlier than it was done. It is for consideration 
whether the Nawab and ministers shall be called on for their 
proportion of the excess.' ' These gentlemen, independent of 
this distribution, helped to preserve the lives of many by their 
charitable donations, as I believe did every man of property in 
these parts ; indeed, a man must have had a heart of stone that 
had the ability and would have refused his mite for the relief of 
such miserable objects as constantly presented themselves to our 
view.' ' The charge was indispensable, and the Company will 
benefit by the preservation of the numbers who have survived 
owing to the distribution of the rice.' 

Cofisnltation of the 2)'ist December I'] ']o. — Mr. Rous, Supravisor 
of Rajshie, reports: 'I cannot give,' he adds, ' a more striking 
proof of the deficiency of the August harvest, than by mentioning 
a circumstance probably never before known, that the consump- 
tion of grain in these parts is now supplied by importation from 
the northern districts and the precincts of Moorshedabad ; and 
that at Nahore, situate in the heart of a rice country, grain sells 
at 18 seers per rupee, whilst at Moorshedabad it is above 30 
seers of the same species of weight.' 

Consultation of the \th February i']']!. — The Rajah Byjnath 
of Dinagepore implores some remission on account of the de- 
population and ruined state of his district which has ensued from 
famine ; represents that many villages are wholly deserted, and 
a great part of the land fallen waste for want of seed and imple- 

Appx. B.] described BY E YE- WITNESSES. 4 1 3 

ments of cultivation. Out of a total demand of Rs. 13,70,932, 
as much as Rs. 12,00,000 had been collected ; and the Board 
now orders that if the rajah does not ' heartily co-operate in 
answering ' their expectations of the revenue in full, he will be de- 
prived of his territory, and summoned before them as a defaulter. 
Consultation of the 2^th Ecbruary 1771.- — -The Supravisor of 
Beerbhoom, Mr. Higginson, reports : ' I have now to represent 
to you, gentlemen, the bad consequences that will attend my 
enforcing the collections of last year's balances from the remaining 
poor ryotts of these districts who have so considerably suffered 
from the late famine, that by far the greatest part of them are 
rendered utterly incapable of paying them. By obliging them to 
sell their cattle and utensils for agriculture, a small proportion 
might be recovered ; but this would certainly be the means of 
their deserting the province, and preventing the cultivation for 
next year, which would be much more fatal to the revenue of the 
country than the whole loss of the balances. In Bissenpore, the 
sum of Rs. 1067 was collected on this account before I received 
charge of the province, and those ryuts from whom it was received 
have fled the country. The cause of many of these balances for 
last year have arisen in a great measure from the corrupt manage- 
ment of aumils and black collectors (through whom we then 
administered the country), and in Bissenpore it was particularly 
as follows : — It was the custom for the ryuts to give paddy for 
the rents of the ground they cultivated ; but last year, their crop 
being entirely spoilt for want of the usual rains, they had no 
paddy to pay. The collector, taking advantage of this, forced 
them to settle their accounts with him at the rate of three rupees 
each measure, whereas the price of any former years was only 
one rupee each measure. This the ryuts not being able to comply 
with, many of them deserted the province, and those that re- 
mained were entirely ruined. And I now refer it to you, gentle- 
men, to know in what manner I am to recover these balances, 
though in the meantime I shall endeavour to collect all I can 
from those who are able to pay, but I fear they will be very few.' 
Mr. Higginson had visited the eastern Pergunnahs, those 
chiefly afflicted. 

' These,' he says, ' are all situated on the easternmost side of 
this province, which suffer much more considerably than any 
other part, on account of there being so little rain there last year 

414 GREAT FAMINE OF i^-^o, [Appx. B. 

in comparison with the rest of the Pergunnahs. Truly concerned 
am I to acquaint you that the bad effects of the last famine appear 
in these places beyond description dreadful. Many hundreds of 
villages are entirely dei^opulated ; and even in the large towns 
there are not a fourth part of the houses inhabited. For want of 
ryuts to cultivate the ground, there are immense tracts of a fine 
open country which remain wholly waste and unimproved. The 
ryuts in general of these Pergunnahs have entreated me to relieve 
them from the oppression of sigdars, and to let out their lands to 
farmers in the same manner as in the other parts of the province, 
when they promise to set heartily to work on the cultivation, 
and to remain in their present habitations. The advantage of 
beginning this as early in the season as possible, must appear 
obvious to you, as by far the greatest number of the ryuts are not 
able to cultivate their lands without the assistance of Tuccavee, 
which can only be given to farmers who, for their own interests, 
will advance the money to encourage their ryuts.' 

The Council replied : 

' Though we can by no means recede from the demands for 
Moofussil balances due from your districts, yet we cannot but 
agree with you in the propriety of suspending them for the 
present, as continuing to harass the ryuts for them at the present 
season would be attended with prejudice to the ensuing year's 
cultivation and collections. Should the approaching year, how- 
ever, prove a prosperous one, we flatter ourselves an adjustment 
might be made for the recovery of these balances ; and it is 
an object that we must recommend to your attention in that 

Consultation of the ist April 1771. — The Supravisor of 
Nuddea begs an advance of ^4000 to enable the cultivators 
to recommence tillage. The council sanction only ^^2500, and 
make the revenue-farmers responsible for its repayment. 

Consultation of the \^th April i^"]!. — Mr. Rous, Supravisor 
of Rajshie, reports : ' I receive advices from the Pergunnahs of 
the frequent firing of villages by people whose distress drives 
them to such acts of despair and villany. Numbers of ryuts, 
who have hitherto borne the first of characters amongst their 
neighbours, pursue this last desperate resource to procure them- 
selves a subsistence.' 


Appx. B.] described BY E YE- WITNESSES. 4 1 5 

Section V. — Selections from the Select Committee, the Seci'et 
Consultations, and Committee of Revenue. 

Consultation of the gth February 1769. — Mr. Becher, resident 
of the Durbar, reports that the ' revenues were never so closely 
collected before.' 

Consultation of the i6th August 1769. — Mr. Rumbold, chief of 
Bahar, after several letters announcing drought and foreboding 
scarcity, now reports that plentiful showers have fallen, and is 
hopeful that want and hunger may yet be relieved. 

Consultations from this date to end of year refer to many 
letters from the local officers complaining of want of rain, appre- 
hending great distress and a falling off of the revenues, and 
suggesting remissions of the land-tax, and permission to pay the 
Government demands wholly or partly in grain. 

Co7tsultation of the 2%th January 1770. — Mr. Alexander, Supra- 
visor of Bahar, has reported that it is not to ' distant evil,' but to 
'the extremity of immediate distress,' that a remedy must be 
applied ; that ' each day lost in deliberation adds to the calamity ;' 
that he has issued an order to take twenty-five seers of rice out 
of every forty for the Government, leaving fifteen for the ryut, — 
sugar-cane, cotton, and opium to pay, according to custom. 

Mr. Alexander further proposed to make a circuit of the 
■province with Raja Shitab Roy. He says: 'To judge from 
the city of Patna, the interior of the country must be in a 
deplorable condition. From fifty to sixty people have died of 
absolute hunger on the streets every day for these ten days past.' 
Above 8000 beggars were still in the place ; and if the rajah 
were to attempt to relieve them in a public manner, the number 
would still increase from every village about Patna. For those 
near his own habitation he serves out fifty rupees' worth of rice 
every day at the Company's expense, and will continue to do so 
till they are relieved, or he receives orders to the contrary. The 
rajah proposed to allot about two lakhs of rupees for the relief 
and assistance of the poor, but Mr. Alexander could not sanction 
this without permission. 

The council recommend caution in the receipt of the revenue 
in kind, and Mr. Alexander was instructed to adopt the plan 
only to a limited extent. 

Consultation of the 2Zth April 1770. — The depopulation in the 

4 1 6 GREA T FAMINE OF 1 7 7 o, [Appx. B. 

interior part of the country is more rapid than will be ima'gined 
by any person who has not been witness to it ; and such is the 
disposition of the people, that they seem rather inclined to sub- 
mit to death than extricate themselves from misery and hunger 
by industry and labour. I wished to give every possible en- 
couragement to cultivation, and with this view Perwannahs were 
issued out, and public notice everywhere given that no rent 
should be collected on the lands producing a particular kind of 
grain called Arzun for the space of six months. This I under- 
stand to be a very coarse seed, and never yields any considerable 
revenue ; in plentiful seasons it is usually at the price of five 
maunds for a rupee. 

The miseries of the j^oor at this place increase in such a 
manner, that no less than 150 have died' in a day in Patna. In 
consequence of this, and the latitude you have given me, I 
disburse on the Company's account daily 380 sonat rupees, — 
100 of which is disbursed by the rajah, 80 by Messrs. Stephenson, 
Droz, and Law, and 150 by myself. I am confident the whole 
is laid out with the utmost economy. The officers at Dinapore, 
by a private subscription, feed a large number, and the French 
and Dutch give as largely as can be expected from their small 

Consultation of the 28/// April 1770. — ' The districts that have 
more particularly suffered from the unfavourableness of the 
season are Poorneah, Rajmahl, Beerbhoom, and a part of Raje- 
shahye ; indeed, the only districts under this department from 
which complaints have not come of the want of rain are Dacca, 
and those low countries that are situate to the eastward, where 
the rivers have overflown and fertilized the lands even this 
remarkable dry season.' 

Bhangulpoj'e had particularly suffered from drought, which, 
added to other causes, has reduced this fine country to a miserable 
state. Lenient revenue arrangements are suggested. 

The condition of Beerbhoom and its inhabitants is alluded to 
as ' miserable, almost exceeding description.' The continuance 
of the drought is deplored ; and the condition of the country is 
thus summed up by Mr. Becher : — 

' If it should please God to continue the present drought much 
longer, all endeavour on your part (the Select Committee), on 
that of the Ministers, and on mine, must be vain. Rain which 

Appx. B.] described BY EYE- WITNESSES. 4 1 7 

fell in February enabled the ryots to plough the ground, and 
they now require a further quantity in order to turn the earth 
and sow their crops. If they obtain this blessing soon, there 
will be a fair prospect for their next crops ; if not, this will be a 
most miserable country. Indeed, the Company can expect but 
small revenues next year. The distress of the inhabitants at 
present does not only proceed from scarcity of provisions and 
want of rain to cultivate their lands, but in many parts they are 
without water to drink.' 

Considtation of the 28//; ^/r// 1770.— Foujdar of Poorneah, 
Mahomed Ala Khan. 

' Hardly a day passes without thirty or forty people dying.' 
' Multitudes already have, and continue to perish of hunger.' 
Seed grain has been sold for food, and cattle and agricultural 
utensils. Children offered for sale, and no buyers. Mahomed 
Ali expresses an official, but not very creditable, ' blindness 
to distress ' and ' deafness to lamentation,' in the interests of 
the Sircar, i.e. the Government. The Aumil of Bishenpore, 
Nobkishwar, testifies that — 

' From excessive drought, and failure of the supply from lakes 
and tanks, the fields of rice, parched by the heat of the sun, 
are become like fields of dried straw.' 

The Aumil of Jessore, Uj agger Mull, reports no rain up to 
nor through Bhadoor. The people are bringing in the leaves of 
trees from the jungles for food ; and they offer to sell their sons 
and daughters. Many of the ryots are running away. 

The Foujdar of Rajmahal, Pertab Roy, makes a similar state- 
ment. Ploughs and oxen are offered for revenue, and clamours 
interrupt the business of the Cutcherry. 

Mr. Ducarel reports that the miseries of the town of Poorneah 
are not less shocking than those of the rural parts. Pestilence 
must be guarded against by the removal of the dead bodies. 
Upwards of 1000 were buried in three days after his arrival. 
One half the cultivators and payers of revenue will perish with 
hunger, whilst those able to purchase a subsistence will pay at 
least 500 per cent, advance in the price of food. He considers 
that, on the high and sandy soils, more than half the ryots are dead. 

Mr. Harwood, Rajmahal, reports that the zameendars are 
ruined, the lands not having yielded half produce for the last 
twelve months. 

VOL. I. 2D 

4i8 GREAT FAMINE OF i-j^o, [Appx. B. 

In a subsequent letter, Mr. Harwood (28th March 1770), 
alluding to the humanity of sanctioning abatements, which had 
been recently allowed, says : 

' Had the misery of the inhabitants been reported to you 
sooner, and had the ryots received this ease at the proper time, 
your beneficent intentions would have been fully answered, and 
many thousands who are now reduced to poverty might have 
enjoyed ease, if not affluence. But, from motives of false policy 
and self-interest, the (native) collectors in the different parts, during 
this calamitous season, have pressed so very hard upon the ryots 
to oblige them to make good their engagements to Government, 
that their total ruin has invariably followed.' Mr. Harwood was 
hopeful, as grain grows ' neither more scarce nor dear,' that ' the 
calamity was almost at an end.' 

Co7isjdtation of the 3^ May 1 770. — Mr. Alexander reports from 
Patna that the famine increases, and leads to apprehensions of 
most fatal consequences. The consujnption of the army J)resses on 
the inhabitants. 

' Your neighbours,' the committee conclude in reply, ' enjoy- 
ing the blessing of almost a plentiful season, whilst you are 
suffering the evils of death and famine, exhibits but an unpleasant 
contrast, and rather wounds the credit of English policy. We 
have no doubt of your vigilance and capacity ; but the Govern- 
ment of this country has provided so very imperfectly for the 
security of the poor, that, unless very extraordinary efforts are 
made to prevent it, these calamities never fail to occasion the 
grossest abuses.' 

Consultation of the ^th Jime 1770. — The Resident at the 
Durbar reports : ' The scene of misery that intervened, and still 
continues, shocks humanity too much to bear description. Cer- 
tain it is, that in several parts the living have fed on the dead, 
and the number that has perished in those provinces that have 
most suffered is calculated to have been, within these few months, 
as six is to sixteen of the whole inhabitants.' 

Consultation of the 21st June 1770. — The Resident at the 
Durbar reports that the misery and distress increase daily. Rice 
sells at 6 and 7 seers per rupee ; and there have been several 
days lately when not a grain was to be purchased. Many even 
of the Company's immediate dependents must have been starved 
but for the supplies from Bakergunge. Plenty of rain now, but 

Appx. B.] described BY EYE- WITNESSES. 4 1 9 

it is feared too much. Tliis apprehension and reduced cultiva- 
tion, owing to the want of people, cattle, and even seed, does not 
afford a very fair prospect for the ensuing collections. 

Consultation of the i(^th July 1770. — The Resident at the 
Durbar reports : ' Previous representations ' are ' faint in com- 
parison to the miseries now endured. Within 30 miles round the 
city, rice sells at only 3 seers for a rupee ; other grain in propor- 
tion ; and even at those exorbitant prices there is not nearly 
sufficient for the daily supply of half the inhabitants, so that in 
the city of Moorshedabad alone it is calculated that more than 
five hundred are starved daily, and in the villages and country 
adjacent the numbers said to perish exceed belief ' Every 
endeavour of the (native) Ministers and myself has been exerted 
to lessen this dreadful calamity. The prospect of the approach- 
ing crop is favourable, and we have the comfort to know that 
the distress of the inhabitants to the northward and eastward of 
us is greatly relieved from what they have before suffered. In 
one month we may expect relief from our present distresses from 
the new harvest, if people survive to gather it in ; but the numbers 
that I am sensible must perish in that interval, and those that I 
see dying around me, greatly aftect my feelings and humanity as 
a man, and make me, as a servant of the Company, apprehensive 
of the consequences that may ensue to the revenues.' 

Secret Consultations of the \st February 177 1 — Note by the 
Committee. — ' The sale of Bakergunge rice produced a profit of 
Rs. 67,593, which, deducted from Rs. 124,806, the advances 
from the Moorshedabad Treasury, leaves Rs. 59,611 expended by 
the Company, or Rs. i6,gii only beyond the original subscrip- 
tion. The Nawab's first subscription exceeded that of the Com- 
pany. He and his Ministers have acted liberally. They should 
not be called on for more.' 

Mr. Becher, resident at the Durbar, reports (24th Dec, 1770): 
— ' This rice came at a most critical time, and I have the satisfac- 
tion to find that the Company has reaped considerable benefit {i.e. 
a profit of nearly ^^7000) by a measure which provided general 
relief to the i??imediate dependents on the English here, and tended 
to preserve order and regularity in the military corps at a time 
of such scarcity and distress, that I am convinced, had it not been 
for the supplies of rice I was enabled to issue from the store, the 
greatest confusion must have ensued. I must now, gentlemen, 

420 GREAT FAMINE OF ii']o, [Appx. B. 

mention the circumstance of the distribution of rice among the 
many miserable objects that presented themselves during the late 
dreadful calamity in and near the city of Moorshedabad. On a 
representation made by me, the committee gave their consent 
that a distribution should take place to the amount of 87,000 
rupees, and that the company should be at the charge of 
Rs. 40,000 ; the rest was to be defrayed by the Nabob and 
Ministers, to which they assented.' 

He goes on to bear witness to the charitable efforts of the 
native aristocracy, and states that the price of rice rose to 4d. per 
pound during the later months of the famine. 

Section VI. — Opinions of the Court of Directors on the actio7i of 
the Bengal Council during the Famine. 

Letter, dated the 2W1 August -i.1l\. — After commending in 
general terms those individuals who have done anything to 
relieve the distress, the Court expresses its indignation against 
those ('but especially natives of England ') who have turned the 
public distress into a source of private profit. 

Para. 10. 'We are led to these reflections by perusing the 
letters from Mr. Becher and Mahomed Reza Khan, which accuse 
the gomashtas of English gentleme?i ' {i.e. English servants of the 
Company), ' not barely for monopolizing grain, but for com- 
pelling the poor ryots to sell even the seed requisite for the next 
harvest. It was natural for us to expect, upon reading the above 
advices, that the strictest inquiry into the names and stations of 
all persons capable of such transactions would have been the 
immediate consequence, and that the most exemplary punish- 
ment had been inflicted upon all ofl^enders who could dare to 
counteract the benevolence of the Company, and entertain a 
thought of profiting by the universal distress of the miserable 
natives, whose dying cries, it is said, were too affecting to admit 
of an adequate description. 

II. 'You will judge from hence how great must have been 
our surprise on observing that, upon a general charge of this 
nature having been made, and not one name specified either by 
Mr. Becher or Mahomed Reza Khan, you never entered into any 
inquiry at all about the matter ! And what seems equally strange 
and absurd, you in general terms tell the Resident at the Durbar 
he may depend on your concurrence in every measure that may 

Appx. B.] described BY EYE- WITNESSES. 42 1 

tend to relieve the distress of the poor in this time of dearth, and yet 
reject the only particular remedy pointed out and recommended 
by him for that purpose ! ... As part of the charge sets forth 
that the ryots were compelled to sell their rice to these monopoliz- 
ing Europeans, we have reason to suspect that they could be no 
other than persons of some rank in our service ; otherwise, we 
apprehend they would not have presumed on having influence 
sufficient to prevent an inquiry into their proceedings.'^ 

^ I am indebted to the kindness of the Secretary of State for India for the 
extracts wlience the foregoing selections are derived, my own abstracts being 
too condensed for publication. I have not attempted to change the official 



CiRC. 1785-1820. 

Being the Story of Ram Ghulam Bawarchi, aged 80. 

[The term ' Saheb,' which occurs so frequently, is a title of 
respect appended by the natives to the names of English gentle- 

' The first Enghsh lord of Beerbhoom was Keating Saheb ; my 
father was cook to him, and I have seen him. My mother held 
me up in her arms to look at him when he passed with his Sepoys 
and elephants. This was in the time of the Rajahs of Beer- 
bhoom. Their name was great ; they had horses, elephants, and 
armies, with whom they used to hunt and to war. They had a 
palace in Rajnagar, and a garden where were their tombs, now 
gone to jungle. Also many forts among the western hills, and a 
summer-house at Hoseinabad ; but the walls of all these have 
sunk into the earth, and now their summer palace can be known 
only by the little green mounds of earth behind the collector's 
house. I have heard my father say that Lord Keating Saheb was 
a very great Saheb ; but I was a child, and know not. My father 
was a very old man, and used to tell me that when he was newly 
married the Sahebs came into the country, and soon the price 
of rice rose to three seers for the rupee {i.e. during the famine 
of 1770); so that all the people died, and the country became 
jungle. He also used to tell me that the Mahrattas (Bargi log) 
came from the west, burning many towns, and killing the people. 
They seized my father, and tied his hands, and fastened him on 
a horse, and took him away to their camp as a slave. But my 
father's sister prayed the chiefs, and they let my father go. 
Hesilrige Saheb and Pye Saheb were before Keating Saheb ; but 

Appx. C] cooks chronicle OFBEERBHOOM. 423 

Pye Saheb lived far off, and Hesilrige Saheb came and cut the 
jungle, and the ryots sowed rice again. 

' The first Saheb, I remember distinctly, was Judge Brook Saheb. 
His house was near where the judge's house now stands. My 
uncle was cook in Brook Saheb's house ; and my earliest remem- 
brance is Mem Saheb Brook walking up and down the verandah 
weeping because her little daughter was dead. I do not remem- 
ber what she died of ; but I remember my uncle carried me in 
his arms to see the Saheb and the Mem Saheb put the little girl in 
the ground. There were other Sahebs there too ; but the Doctor 
Saheb had gone to Soorool to attend Cheap Saheb's children. The 
little girl was carried to a tamarind tree at the foot of the garden, 
and put into the earth there ; then they put a white stone over 
her, and the stone is there to this day. 

' I also knew Cheap Saheb. My father went to be his cook 
when Keating Saheb left. Cheap Saheb was the Company's mer- 
chant (Commercial Resident). He had a great house on the top 
of a hill, with a wall all round, higher than the ramparts round 
the fort in Calcutta. Within the wall were gardens and orchards 
bearing many fruits ; also many houses and stores. The Com- 
pany's cloth was kept there ; and the Gomashtahs and Keranies 
lived in a village within the wall. There were also Sepoys to 
guard the Company's storehouses ; and the inferior servants of the 
Company lived in a town at the bottom of the hill. Cheap Saheb 
was a rich and powerful Saheb ; he had many children, mostly 
daughters, each of whom had servants of their own. There were 
six table-servants to wait on Cheap Saheb and the Mem Saheb. 
He had about sixty house-servants in all, with many horses, and 
an aviary full of strange birds. Deer used to run about in the 
pleasure-grounds. The Mem Saheb used to be very fond of 
flowers. He was a great Saheb ; and I learned my trade in his 

' Afterwards there was a gentleman at Elambazaar, on the river, 
Erskine Saheb, who died not many years ago. He also was a 
great Saheb, and was in partnership with Cheap Saheb. They 
traded in many things — in cloths, sugar, silk, lac — and made 
much money. When I had learned my work in Cheap Saheb's 
kitchen, I was sent to Elambazaar to act for Erskine Saheb's 
cook, who was ill ; but the kitchen at Elambazaar was not so 
big as the kitchen at Cheap Saheb's. 


' When I was away at Soorool and Elambazaar, there were 
many Sahebs came and went in Soorie. I was not in their 
kitchen, and did not know them. I remember the names of 
Kemble Saheb, Tikri Saheb, Chalblan Saheb, Reily Saheb, Mor- 
rison Saheb, who was here twelve years, Biscoe Saheb. I did 
not know these gentlemen. (Some of these names are so per- 
verted, that I can make nothing of them.) 

' The price of all things was cheap. For a pice and a half (a 
halfpenny), a great feast (barakhana) was given. (This is figu- 
rative, but what follows is the truth.) Fat fowls were thirty-two 
to the rupee (i.e. for two shillings), young chickens at forty or 
fifty, ducks from sixteen to twenty-five, lambs three annas (4^d.) 
a piece, a fat sheep six annas (gd.), rice from sixty to one hundred 
pounds for a rupee. All things cost little. Servants' wages 
were higher. My father got Rs. 20 as head cook ; khidmatgars 
(table-servants) got Rs. 8 ; coolies (labourers) got four to seven 
pice a-day (i-|d. to 2|d.), but they could buy more food with 
their money, and lived better. The Santal people did not then 
come down to the plains in search of work, and the Bowries and 
Haris (labouring classes) got plenty of work. The Santal people 
were then cutting the jungle at the foot of the hills on the west 
of the district; now they work all over the district. Poor men 
had no rupees : they always bought and sold with cowries. 
A coolie got four to six pan (320 to 480) cowries for his day's 
work (worth from \\di. to 3d.). There were very few inhabitants. 
Most of the cultivators had farms of their own, but there were also 
a few krishans who worked for them. The farmer gave the land, 
the seed, the plough, and the oxen, and got two-thirds of the 
crops ; the krishati only gave his labour, and got one-third of the 
crop. This was the way they tilled the jungle lands. When the 
Santal and hill-men came down from the hills for work, then the 
krisha?is increased. Now they are all over the district, and the 
krishans have to give the plough and the oxen in many parts, 
and get but barely one-third of the crop. Their lot is becoming 
hard. All the cultivating classes used to be able to get land ; 
now they cannot get land even as krisJians, and have to work as 
hired labourers. 

' The courts and public offices, when I was a boy, were in the 
Red House village, near where the Padri Saheb (the mission- 
ary) now lives. There were then only a very few Sahebs in 

Appx. C] of BEERBHOOM, i 785-1 820. 425 

the station. They were the collector, the judge, the assistant, 
and the doctor. I do not remember any more. I was married 
when seven years of age, but my wife was taken by her parents 
to Gwari (Krishnagar), and I did not see her again till I was 
twenty years old. I was about twenty when I got my first regular 
place. It was with Clark Saheb, the assistant collector. He lived 
in the Anindapur House, in the Lines (cantonments) ; it has now 
fallen to ruins. There was then only a little road in the station 
joining one house to another. I went with Clark Saheb to Gwari 
when he was transferred there. Clark Saheb went before in a 
palki ; I and the other servants came with the luggage behind. 
We had a guard. The baggage was carried partly on bullock 
carts, but mostly on men's backs, as the roads were hardly to be 
passed. We went by Lampur and Kirinahar to Cutwa, then we 
put the baggage into boats, and so reached Krishnagar. It took 
us sixteen days, I remember. There was no government road in 
that direction then, but the Zemindars cleared a pathway, each 
through his own estates. The chotvkidars (village watchmen) 
all along the road were turned out to protect the assistant col- 
lector's baggage as we went along.' 

(I took down the foregoing in Hindusthani from the old man's 
lips at several sittings, but at this point he had a severe illness, 
and I had left the district before he was strong enough to come 
to me again. It is useless to look for perfect accuracy in such 
narratives, but it forms a fair specimen of the chronicles I have 
obtained from other aged inhabitants.) 

W. W. H. 



Drawn tip for me in Bengali, from local traditions, Sanscrit works, 
and the archives of native families, by Nabin Chandra Bando- 


I give this and the corresponding Chronicle of Bishenpore 
without attempting historical corrections. They are fair speci- 
mens of a learned native's idea of local history, and, like all 
similar works, contain here and there valuable hints as to the 
condition of the people, and the rights of the various orders of 
society, before the country passed under our care. 

To the student of ethnology, the class of manuscripts of which 
Appendix D. and F. are specimens, estabHsh four important 
points : First, that before the Aryans reached Bengal, communities 
of herdsmen and agriculturists were living in the land under 
their own princes ; second, that the Aryans obtained a footing 
in Bengal, not always as conquerors, but in various capacities ; 
third, that after Aryan kingdoms had been founded throughout 
Bengal, many aboriginal princes retained their territories side 
by side with the new comers, and sometimes supplied them 
with aboriginal troops ; fourth, that the Aryan colonization of 
Bengal was a gradual natural process, accomplished by successive 
waves of emigrants from the north, and that a long enough time 
elapsed for the aborigines to influence Aryan dialects and Aryan 
religion, before they were finally enslaved or driven back from 
the lowlands. 

The Pandit's Chronicle. 

According to the geographical accounts of the Purana, the 
limit of the Pundra country coincided with that of the south of 

Appx. D.] the pandits CHRONICLE. 427 

Bengal, and comprised modern Bengal, Beerbhoom, Jungle- 
Mahal, Burdwan, Raj-Mahal, some parts of Moorshedabad, 
Dinajpur, Midnapur, Nuddea, and Nabadwipa, From the name 
of the country, the ancients called its inhabitants Pundaris. 

Ballal Sen, king of Gour, divided the descendants of the 
five Brahmans, brought into the country by Adishwara, into two 
sects— the Varindra and the Rari — both of which held the title 
of Kulin. The Rari inhabited Burdwan, Beerbhoom, Bancorah, 
and a few other towns, in which Bhuba Nand Sen established a 
separate monarchy. It was during the reign of the Sen family, 
or that of the Pals, that the original princes of Bishenpore 
founded an empire in the mountainous regions. Much is told of 
the separate kingdoms set up by the successors of Adishwara, 
Each prince ruled his district with vigour ; and although he did 
not oppress his vassal nobility, he maintained complete sway 
over them. 

A tradition relates the origin of the name Beerbhoom. It is 
stated that once upon a time the Raja of Bishenpore went out to 
exercise his trained hawks in the mountainous districts of his 
empire. He threw off one of his birds to the pursuit of a heron, 
then usually hunted with hawks. The heron turned upon its 
pursuer with great fury, and came off victorious. This unusual 
occurrence excited the surprise of the king. He imagined that 
it must have been owing to some mysterious quality in the soil ; 
that the soil was in fact Vir-mati {i.e. vigorous soil), and that 
whatever might be brought forth by that soil would be endowed 
with heroic energy and power. Thereupon he named it Vir- 
bhumi, a name by which that mountainous region was ever 
afterwards known. Others, however, derive the name from the 
inhabitants themselves ; for in old times this country produced 
many heroes, and so it acquired the name of Vir-bhumi (Beer- 
bhoom), or Land of Heroes.^ The present capital of the district 
is Suri, a corruption of Surjya, a Bengali term for ' glory.' 

Beerbhoom is bounded on the north by Monghir and Raj- 
Mahal, on the south by Burdwan and Pachete*(Bancorah), on the 
east by Raj-Shye, and on the west by Monghyr and Pachete. 
At the time of the Muhammadan rule, the country was named 
by Abul Fazl ' Madaran.' In old times the country was ill 

' It is right to state that Vir or Bir, in Santali, the aboriginal language of 
Beerbhoom, means 'jungle.' — W. W. H. 


supplied with water, and this, together with the fact that a large 
part of it was occupied by jungles, rendered it in great measure 
unfit for agriculture. 

When Beerbhoom was in the possession of the Mussulmans, it 
was frequently invaded by the hilly tribe 'Jhar Bhundi.' To 
put an end to these plundering excursions, Shere Shah made 
over Soory to Adoola the son of Boduroolah. In 1540, Shere 
Shah, with 500,000 Afghans, defeated Hoomaon at Canouj, and 
mounted the throne of Delhi. In the following year he came to 
Gour, and divided it into several districts, over each of which he 
placed a distinct ruler. These governors had a superior who 
adjusted disputes, and acted as the viceroy of Shere Shah. 

To the east of Soory is a village, Akchokra, where the Pandus 
are said to have taken refuge after their escape from Jatigriha. 
In this place one of the five brothers, by name Bim, killed a 
monster named Hirombok (probably a legend of the Aryan con- 
quest of Bengal), and married his sister Hiromba, by whom he 
had a son called Ghuttutcuch, who played a conspicuous part in 
the battle of Kurukshetra, as mentioned in the Mahahharat. By 
some accounts it is said that Akchocra includes Nimai, Ghore- 
daha, Gonootia, and Cottershore, and that Bhim resided there 
with his wife and mother. There is a place in Beerbhoom called 
Deoghur, where Ram, on his way to Ceylon, left the god Siva. 
Another Siva named Bakeshwar was placed in a village which 
afterwards received the name of that god, and to which many 
worshippers still resort in the month of April of each year to do 
honour to the deity. During the reign of the Baidya family, 
the kings of Bishenpore and Burdwan alone had a place in 
history. Of the kings of Beerbhoom — Lowshan, Ichay Gose, 
Shungai, Gidhore (some of these seem to have been aboriginal 
princes), Mollar Singh, and Beersingh — we know little more than 
the names. 

The hills of Beerbhoom were inhabited by savage tribes, and 
only in the outskirts of the country did the minor kings make 
their residence. Two brothers, Bir-Singh and Chaitanya Singh, 
came to Beerbhoom from the north-west provinces, subdued the 
mountaineers, and selected places as their capitals, which still 
bear their names — Birsinghpur and Chaitangapur and Chaitanga. 
Fattih Singh, who is said to have been the brother of Bir-Sing, 
subdued many places in Moorshedahad, which now bear the 

Appx. D.] of BEERBHOOM. 429 

name of Fattipore Purgunah, and are included in the district of 

Bir-Singh was the first (Hindu) king of Beerbhoom. He pos- 
sessed a strong and athletic frame, and by his might subdued the 
inhabitants of the jungles, and thus extended the boundary of 
his kingdom. He deprived his brother of his territories, and 
built the capital of Birsinghpore. Many kings and zemindars 
owned his power, and acknowledged him as their lord paramount. 
The ruins of palaces, forts, and tanks are still to be seen in 
Birsinghpore, six miles west of Soory. The king lost his life in 
battle with the Mussulmans ; and his queen, from fear of being 
maltreated by the enemy, drowned herself in a pond, which is 
still named the Ranidoha (Queen's Tank). Bir-Singh dedicated 
a temple to the honour of the goddess Kali, and set up a stone 
idol. The rajah also placed an idol named Gopal in the 
neighbourhood of Birsinghpore ; and the place, being surrounded 
by a jungle, received the name of Brindaban. 

The Bhills, Cols, Gondas, and other hill-tribes (aborigines), 
lived in the Maghadha kingdom (Bahar and Bengal), and Beer- 
bhoom was also included in it. This kingdom embraced a large 
extent of country, but does not appear to have been well 
governed, as even among the zemindars, who lived within a 
short distance of the capital, there were some who did not pay 
tribute (in other words, the Aryan conquest was partial). One 
rajah was exempt from tribute, owing to the fact that he was a 
good sportsman. After the fall of the Maghadha dynasty, the 
Pals assumed the supreme power ; their original seat was Bahar. 
The Baidya house succeeded the Pals. 

The Santals of Beerbhoom inhabit the hills of Dumka, Jal- 
Jhari, and Kumarabad. Their god was Boram (Marang-Buru), 
to whom they offered human sacrifices. When a pestilence 
ravaged their country, however, they abandoned the practice, 
and, instead, offered goats, hogs, or other animals. The Boalia, 
another hill-tribe, worshipped the same deity. Some of them 
lived in Burdwan during the time of Rajah Kritti Chander, and 
were employed by him as porters. They still follow that occu- 
pation in Burdwan and Calcutta. The jungles to the north-west 
of Beerbhoom are inhabited by a savage tribe called Birpore, 
who earn a livelihood by the sale of ropes made from the bark 
of the chinody tree. They feed upon the flesh of monkeys, 


dogs, and hogs, and consider elephants worthy of their homage 
and worship. These savage hordes, together Avith the wild 
beasts of the jungle, were a continual source of alarm to the 
lowlanders. But as the country furnished those heroes whom 
the (Hindu) kings were accustomed to employ in their service, 
its inhabitants (the wild tribes) were not exterminated. 

It is affirmed by some that the predecessors of AH Naki 
Khan gained possession of Raj-Nagar by murdering Bir Rajah ; 
but before recounting the events of his reign, it will be necessary 
to inquire as to the time when Raj-Nagar was established. It 
appears that the kingdom of Nagar was founded during the 
reign of the Baidya family, and not that of the Mussulmans ; for 
it is to be observed, that when the Mussulmans obtained the 
throne of Bengal, the Subadar (viceroy) constructed a road from 
Debkoti, east of Gour, to Nagar, the chief tOA\Ti of Beerbhoom, 
for the purposes of traffic. This was in the year 1205. 

Bir Rajah was descended from a noble Brahman family. 
He made Nagar his capital, and enjoyed an unrivalled reputa- 
tion for his valour and skill in arms. All the kings of the sur- 
rounding districts owned him as their paramount. When the 
Patans were in the height of their power, and were laying waste 
many fair provinces in Bengal, Bir Rajah stood forth to oppose, 
and, by his military tact and distinguished courage, succeeded 
in freeing the country from the oppressor. 

Two Patans named Assad-Ulla-Khan and Joned Khan, of 
the Patan race, from the north-west, one day presented them- 
selves before the Rajah of Nagar. Their stature and manly 
bearing attracted his attention, and impressed him with such an 
idea of their prowess, that he resolved to take them into his 
service ; and after their valour had been sufficiently put to the 
test, he raised them to the rank of commanders and confidential 
ministers. Under their administration the country made great and 
rapid advances, and the people enjoyed the blessings of peace. 
In course of time, however, the Patans became jealous of the 
power of their master, and watched every opportunity to work 
his destruction. One of them, Assad-Ulla, became enamoured 
of the beauty of the queen, and instigated her to favour their 
base designs. It is said that the king was fond of wrestling, 
and that he had a special building set apart for that purpose, 
where he engaged daily in the sport. On one occasion, when 

Appx. D.] OF BEERBHOOM. 431 

Assad-Ulla presented himself there, the rajah ordered his servants 
to refuse him admittance. This roused the anger of Assad-Ulla. 
He returned with his brother Joned, forced an entrance into the 
hall, and fell upon the king. A serious conflict now ensued ; 
and it is difficult to say how it would have ended, had not Joned 
Khan, at the instigation of the queen, with whom he also was in 
love, attacked them both, and threw them struggling into a well. 
Although the servants and retainers of the king stood by, they 
were prevented from interfering by the presence of the queen ; 
so that both the rajah and Assad-Ulla were drowned. The 
people mourned the death of their king, under whom they had 
so long enjoyed happiness and prosperity.^ 

Joned Khan. — The queen now assumed the royal power, and 
raised Joned Khan to the rank of Diwan. The administration 
of affairs was placed entirely in the hands of the Patan. Ere long 
the queen died, leaving a son as legal heir to the throne. After 
her death the soldiers rose in mutiny, but were speedily brought 
back to duty by the Patan. Joned died soon after, leaving the 
government in the hands of Bahadur Khan. 

Before proceeding with his reign, a few facts may be stated 
regarding the earlier history of these Patans. Their father died 
while the children were still young, leaving his widow totally 
unprovided with the means of existence. One day, while she 
had gone to beg some rice of her neighbours, a fakir made his 
appearance at her dwelling, and, apparently without any cause, 
beat one of the boys severely with his shoes. The screams of 
the child soon brought the mother to his aid \ and on her de- 
manding an explanation from the fakir, he consoled her by saying 
that he had not been beating, but blessing her son, and that the 
time was not far distant when both brothers should sway the 
sceptre of Bengal. The youths, when arrived at manhood, set 
out on a journey to distant lands, and used every opportunity of 
making themselves expert in the use of arms. In the course of 
their travels they came to Beerbhoom ; and we have already 
recounted their deeds in that country, and how they became 

Bahadur Khan, or Ran-Mast Khan (a.d. 1600-1659).^ — This 
prince commenced his reign in the month of Joit 1007, Bengali 

' The learned pandit has here spoiled a very striking legend. Elsewhere 
I hope to tell it in its proper form. 2 g. j), a. 


era. Under his rule the country had rest and peace, the popu- 
lation was considerably increased, and agriculture met with a 
full share of attention. He died in the Bengali year 1066 (a.d. 
1689), leaving the throne to his only son, Khwaja Kamal Khan. 
Nothing is recorded of the latter except that he beautified the 
capital, and effected several other improvements throughout his 
kingdom. He died in the Bengali year 1104 (a.d. 1697), and 
was succeeded by his son Asd UUa, one of the wisest and most 
pious kings of his time. Asd UUa added to the number of the 
troops, and caused numerous tanks to be dug in the capital, by 
which means the miseries resulting from the scarcity of water 
were in great measure avoided. He contrived to free his king- 
dom from the necessity of paying tribute to the Nawab, to whom 
he rendered valuable assistance in time of war. Many mosques 
were dedicated to the honour of God, and much of his time was 
passed in religious services. He left two sons, Badya Jama and 
Azmat Khan. 

Badya Jama.^ — This prince ascended the throne in the year 
1 125 (a.d. 1718),^ and obtained a sannad from Murshad Kuli, 
the Nawab of Moorshedabad. It was about this time that a new 
arrangement was made regarding the tribute paid to the Nawab, 
346,000 rupees being the amount agreed upon. During this 
reign, the Marhattahs, under Bhaskar Pandit, plundered the 
western countries, and eventually encamped in a place called 
Kendua Danga, or Ganj Murshad. But when the rainy season 
set in they retired to Catwah, accompanied by Mir Habib, a 
Patan. Badya Jama, with his brother Ali Naki, and the Rajah 
of Burdwan, assisted the Nawab in dispersing the Marhattahs, 
and driving them to Midnapore. Badya had two wives. By the 
first he had two sons, Ahmad Jama Khan and Mahammad Ali 
Khan ; and by the second, one named Asd Jama Khan. Besides 
these three, he had an illegitimate son named Bahadur Jama 
Khan. Ahmad was of a religious turn of mind, and interfered 
in no way with the administration of the country. The second 
and third sons were powerful princes, and gained a high reputation 
for their courage and skill in arms. On a certain occasion, a 
fakir named Sai Ful Hak, from the north, made his appearance 
at the Beerbhoom court, and in course of time was admitted into 
the confidence of the king. The fakir possessed a good know- 

^ The Pandit uses y for Z, there behig no Z in BengaH. ^ g. ]3. a. 

Appx. D.] of BEERBHOOAL 433 

ledge of the Kuran, and the king spent much of his time in 
hearing him read from the book. In process of time he became 
so much engrossed with his rehgious instructor, that the affairs of 
his kingdom were totally neglected ; and his sons, Ali and iVhmad, 
set themselves to get rid of the favourite. With this view they 
made their way to Moorshedabad. While they remained here, 
an occurrence took place which brought them under the notice 
of the Nawab. One day an elephant of the emperor was led to 
a pond to drink, near to which Ahmad happened to be standing. 
As the animal drew up, the driver called to the prince to move 
out of its way ; but Ahmad, instead of heeding the order, caught 
hold of the elephant by the tusks, and threw it to a considerable 
distance. This feat amazed those that stood by, and ere long 
reached the ears of the Nawab, who immediately summoned the 
brothers into his presence. On being asked the reason of their 
sudden appearance in Moorshedabad, the Patans informed him 
of the story of the fakir, and the disorder likely to occur in their 
father's kingdom. The Nawab gave them permission to murder 
the fakir ; and accordingly the brothers, hastening back to Raj- 
Nagar, put the fakir to death. Their father mourned his loss, 
and slowly pining, died of a broken heart. His sons, too, felt 
ashamed of their crime, and promised to their father neither to 
interfere in any political matter, nor to entertain any hopes of ever 
succeeding to the throne. They accordingly resolved to support 
their step-brother Asd as the rightful heir. With this intent they 
departed for Moorshedabad, and informed the Nawab of the 
affair. The Nawab at first expressed reluctance, saying that it 
was illegal to raise the youngest to the throne while his brothers 
lived ; but, on their earnest entreaties, he gave his consent, and 
the coronation of Asd Jama was performed with great pomp on 
their return home. The two brothers afterwards set out for 
Moorshedabad, and remained in the service of the Nawab. They 
distinguished themselves in a war with the Marhattahs ; and on 
one occasion, when Mir Jafir Ali Khan's son-in-law had been 
carried off a prisoner, and confined in an iron cage, they entered 
the camp of the Marhattahs in disguise, and having overheard 
their plans, attacked them unawares, and returned in triumph 
with the captive. 

Suraja Doula ascended the throne of his grandfather as Vice- 
roy of Bengal, and ere long found himself called upon to take 
VOL. I 2 E 


up arms against the English. Two reasons are alleged : i. That 
the English had given refuge to Kishna Doss, the enemy of the 
Nawab ; and 2. That, without any permission from the Nawab, 
they had established forts in the countries under his control. 
Accordingly the Nawab collected a powerful host, the command 
of which he gave to Ali Naki Khan and Ahmad Jama Khan of 
Beerbhoom, along with Diwan Manik Chand, Bahur Mohan 
Lall, and Jafer Ali Khan. These marched against the English 
towards Calcutta, and encamped at Bagh-bazar. The English 
fled to Howra, Bally, and the fort. The Nawab attacked the 
fort, and carried it by storm. He placed the English prisoners 
under the charge of Diwan Manik Chand, and was going to re- 
turn in triumph to Moorshedabad. Diwan treated the captives 
with cruelty, and shut them up, one hundred and forty-six in all, 
in the Black Hole, whence only thirteen came out alive. This 
was in the year 1756 

After this victory Ali Naki Khan of Beerbhoom took pos- 
session of part of the enemy's country, and laid the foundation 
of Alipore, which is now the seat of government (the residence 
of the Lieutenant-Governors of Bengal). Of all the petty princes 
under the Nawab, this man, together with his brother, were the 
most powerful, and rendered the most effectual assistance to 
their lord. On one occasion Suraja Doula wished Ali to inform 
him which lady in Beerbhoom he considered to be the most 
beautiful.-^ The Patan, enraged, replied that he accounted those 
beautiful who bore any resemblance to his mother and her 
daughters. So saying, he raised his sword and struck at the 
Nawab; but the blow missed the mark, and coming down upon 
a stone pillar, split it in two. The attendants were so much 
taken by surprise, that they made no effort to protect their royal 
master. Probably, also, the known daring of the Patan was suf- 
ficient to restrain any interference on their part. The brothers 
were, however, obliged to withdraw themselves from court for 
some time ; but afterwards, having made their peace with the 
Nawab, they were permitted to return, and were again received 
into the favour and confidence of their prince. 

After the defeat of Badya Jama Khan of Beerbhoom by the 
Rajah Gidhor, Ali Naki Khan led his army against his father's 

' An insult, implying that Ali would name some one of his own family, 
whom the Nawab would then seize as a concubine. 

Appx. D.] of BEERBHOOM. 435 

enemy, and after a severe struggle, which lasted for six days, 
succeeded in driving his opponents from the field. The town 
of Deoghar came into the possession of the Patan after the 
subjection of the hill-tribes. It was, and still is, the seat 
of the Hindu god Baidya-Nath (Bij-Nath). The devotees 
brought to its shrine many valuable presents of the value of 
about 50,000 rupees every month. Ali Naki Khan left the 
god in the hands of the men of the place, called Pandahs, from 
whom he exacted tribute. The Patan married a sister of his 
father, by whom he had a son who died while still a youth (?). His 
death preyed upon the minds both of his father and his uncle, 
Ahmad Jama Khan, the latter of whom at length put an end to 
his life on the 15th Magh 1169 (1762 a.d.). The father gradu- 
ally sank under these heavy losses, and passed the last two years 
of his hfe in extreme misery. He died on 21st Falgoon 1171, 
and was buried in front of his brother's tomb. The two brothers 
were possessed of noble qualities. They were gentle, brave, 
generous, and averse to sensual gratifications. Badya Jama 
Khan spent the greater part of his life in the performance of 
religious duties, and at length died in 11 78 (a.d. 177 i), having 
suffered much in his declining years from the death of his son. 
He was buried in a garden to the west of Nagar. His surviving 
son Asd Jama Khan was already on the throne. Immediately 
upon his accession, with the consent of his father and brothers, 
he adorned the capital, and placed in it many rich merchants 
who added greatly to its commercial importance. Mir Jafir Ali 
Khan placed the reins of government in the hands of his son, 
who, soon after his accession, began to tyrannize over his subjects. 
He killed two daughters of the Nawab ; but while engaged in 
plundering their treasures, he was struck by lightning, and car- 
ried off along with his accomplices. Asd Jama, the Rajah of 
Beerbhoom, thinking this a good opportunity for taking up 
arms against the Nawab, marched with a powerful army to 
Chuna Khalli. The Zamindars, vassals of the Nawab, failed 
to make any resistance, and their lord was so much affected 
by the death of his son, that he could not put himself at their 
head. Accordingly, to prevent the advance of the Rajah of 
Beerbhoom, he sued for peace, and requested Asd Jama to be 
content with the districts he had already taken possession of. 
This, however, did not satisfy the Rajah, who proceeded across 


the Ganges. Upon this the wife of the Nawab, Mari Bigam, 
sought the aid of the EngHsh, promising them a large tract of 
her husband's dominions in return. They consented, and im- 
mediately gave battle to the Rajah, defeated his immense host, 
and pursued him to the fort of Nagar. The siege of this fortress 
lasted several days, but at length the Rajah lost his bravest 
general, Afzal Khan. A treaty was afterwards concluded between 
the parties, the conditions of which were : i. That the English 
should have one-third share of the Rajah's rental. 2. That 
they should not interfere in the affairs of Beerbhoom. 3. That 
on all occasions of importance, the Rajah should consult with 
the English. After this, Asd Jama regularly paid tribute to the 
Nawab. He also gave 1000 biggahs (360 acres) of land rent free 
to Moonshee Anup Mithra, in return for sums of money lent to 
the Rajah. He bestowed 6500 biggahs {2200 acres) of land 
as Jagir for educating his son. 

Fourteen miles from Soory there is a village called Mallar- 
pore. Mallar Sing was its proprietor, a religious and popular 
man. He was imposed upon by a person who told him that 
the Rajah of Nagar intended to make him adopt the religion 
of Muhammad. He took this so much to heart, that without 
inquiry as to the truth he put himself to death. The Rajah was 
grieved on hearing of his death, and endeavoured to discover 
the perpetrator of the trick, but without success. 

Twenty miles from Soory, and north of Nagar, there is a vast 
forest called Sinpahari. The governor of the district was Ichai 
Ghose, who built there a large temple named Ichai Mandir, and 
a fort called Sham Rup Ghar. He was attacked and overpowered 
by another man in the district called Lai Sen ; and his temple, 
with its goddess and fort, fell into the hands of his enemy. 

Kindu Billogram, a village eighteen miles distant from Soory, 
was the residence of a famous poet named Jaya deva Muni, and 
of a god, Radha Damuda. The poet is said to have walked forty 
miles every day to bathe in the Ganges. The village is con- 
sidered to be a sacred place by the Hindus, who assemble 
annually, to the number of 50,000 or 60,000, to offer worship at 
the shrine. A fair called Magher Sankranti takes place on the 
last day of Magh every year. 

Asd Jama Khan of Beerbhoom died of paralysis at Calcutta 
in 1 184 (a.d. 1777). He was a liberal and powerful prince, and 

Afpx. D.] of BEERBHOOM. 437 

was held in high esteem by his subjects. He had a great desire 
to reign over the whole of Bengal, and for this purpose made 
many attempts at the supreme power, but in vain. His reign 
extended over a period of twenty-six years. After his death his 
brother Bahadur Jama Khan besought the assistance of the Eng- 
lish Government to raise him to the throne. At the same time 
the widow of Asd Jama Khan, called Lall Bihi, together with her 
brother Mahammed Taki Khan, set up a rival claim, and con- 
tended that, as Bahadur was the illegitimate son of Badya Jama 
Khan, the father of her husband, he could have no legal right to 
be prince. The English decided in her favour, and accordingly 
Lall Bihi was raised to the throne. Soon after this, however, 
Bhoton Saha, an intimate friend of Bahadur, devised a plan which 
deprived the widow of her power. He instructed the porter of 
Mahammed Taki to kill Bahadur's doorkeeper, and to report 
that he had been commissioned by his master to cause the death 
of Bahadur himself. By bribing the servant, Bhoton managed to» 
get his evil design carried into effect ; and the English, believing 
the report, took the power from the hands of Mahammed and 
conferred it upon Bahadur. The widow was kindly treated by 
the new king, and received a certain amount for her support. 
Bahadur died in 1196 (a.d. 1789), and was buried in the garden 
at Nagar. He left his son Mahammed Jama Khan as heir to the 

Radha Krishna Rai was one of the Dewans of the kings of 
Nagar. He resided in Purandarpur — so named from the god 
Purandar, found under the earth — and obtained 1400 bgs. (500 
acres) of land from the rajahs as Jagir. 

Mahammed Jama Khan succeeded to the throne, with the 
consent of the English, in 1197 (a.d. 1790). During his minority 
the affairs of state were entrusted to Dewan Lalla Ram Nath and 
Mr. Keating. AVhen arrived at manhood, he assumed the reins 
of government, and ruled with wisdom and firmness. In person 
he was tall and powerful ; and after his death, his painting was 
sent to Calcutta. The population of Beerbhoom during his reign 
was 700,000, of which one-third were Hindus (in reality two- 
thirds). It was Lalla Ram Nath who effected the permanent 
arrangement for the revenues of Beerbhoom. He built the 
temple of Bhandissar Siva in a place called Bhandiban, six miles 
from Soory. A large tract of land was allowed him as Jagir. 


Mahammed Diwan Jama Khan, the son of Mahammed Jama 
Khan, ascended the throne in 1209 (a.d. 1802), and received 
the sanad from the hands of the Enghsh in 12 19 (a.d. 181 2). 
He died in 1262 (a.d. 1855), leaving his son Johur Jama Khan, 
who still lives. When Beerbhoom came entirely into the posses- 
sion of the English, the jail was of mud, thatched with straw ; 
but on May 15th, 1800, a brick one was erected, by order of the 
Government, under the superintendence of Mr. Campbell. Great 
encouragement was likewise given to agriculture, and the people 
made rapid advances in the arts of civihsation. 

The Rajahs of Beerbhoom built many mosques and forts, and 
dug tanks. The most of these are now in ruin. 

In the year 1261 (a.d. 1854-55) the Santals of Beerbhoom 
rose in insurrection against the English ; but with the assistance 
of the Rajah of Burdwan and the Commissioner of the Burdwan 
Division, Mr. Elliot, they were speedily quelled. By order of the 
Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, Mahammed Hamid, a Darogar, 
Golum AUi Khan, Mir Khan, Sahib Khan, Sookh Lall, and 
Himat AUi Jamadar were rewarded on the 20th January 1856. 

Beerbhoom is a fertile country. Raj-Nagar was and still is 
famous for its mangoes and preserved fruits. The country is 
watered by the rivers Aji, the More, and Bakeshwar. The ave- 
rage amount of land-tax now realized is about (i\ laks of rupees 

(I have preserved the Bengali spelling, which is as uncertain 
and in the case of proper names, particularly Muhammadan ones, 
as far from the true etymology as our own popular rendering of 
Indian words. Corrections, whether historical or geographical, 
have been left for another volume. The true dates will be found 
in The Family Book of the Princes in Beerbhoom, Appendix F.) 



The following is an abbreviation of a Bengali work composed 
by my Pandit, Nobin Chandra Bandopadya, collated with a 
Persian MS. drawn up by the Rajah's order (for which I am 
indebted to Mr. George Loch of the Bengal Civil Service, one of 
the Judges of Her Majesty's Supreme Court in Bengal), and with 
other papers furnished from the Rajah's record-room. 

The Chronicle. 

Raghu Nath Singh, the founder of the dynasty of Bishenpore, 
derived his origin from the kings of Jai Nagar near Brindaban. 
The story of his parentage is as follows. The king of Jai Nagar 
being seized with a desire to visit distant countries, set out for 
Purusatam, and on his way thither passed through Bishenpore. 
While resting at one of the halting-places in the great forest of 
that country, his wife gave birth to a son ; and the king foreseeing 
the difficulties of carrying a child with him, left the mother and 
her baby behind in the woods, and went forward on his journey. 
Such barbarous desertions are still heard of : even women, when 
they have once set their hearts upon pilgrimage, become merciless 
to their offspring, and abandon any child they may happen to 
give birth to by the way. 

Soon after the father had departed, a man named Sri Kasmetia 
Bagdi (an aboriginal inhabitant), when gathering firewood, passed 
by the halting-place, and saw the newly born child lying helpless 
and alone. The mother never was heard of; and whether she 
was devoured by wild beasts, or found shelter with the natives, 
remains a mystery to this day. The woodman took the infant 
home, and reared him till he reached the age of seven, when a 
certain Brahman of the place, struck with his beauty and the 
marks of royal descent that were visible on his person, took him 


to his own house. (Observe this is the first appearance of a 
resident Aryan in the legend ; and he is not a conqueror, but 
a poor colonist.) The Brahman,, however, being an indigent 
person, was compelled to send the boy out to tend his cows and 
work for his living ; and the lad so grew upon the affections of 
the Bagdis (aborigines), that they called him Raghu Nath, Lord 
Raghu, and supplied him with food. 

One day in particular the boy attracted the notice of every- 
body by his beauty, as he played with the other young cowherds, 
while the elder shepherds looked on. The fathers, seeing that 
the day was wearing on, set their faces homewards, driving their 
numerous cattle before them. On the way, a cow belonging to 
Raghu's herd strayed from the rest, and the boy going in search 
of her into the thick forest, wandered up and down, looking in all 
directions, but in vain, till at last, overcome with fatigue, he lay 
down at the foot of a tree. No sooner had he fallen asleep than 
a huge cobra glided out of a tuft of high grass ; but instead of 
biting the lad, gazed stedfastly on him, and erecting his many- 
coloured hood above the sleeper's face, shaded him from the 
rays of the sun (a legend told of many successful adventurers). 
His adopted parent meanwhile was in great distress about his 
disappearance, and unable to bear the suspense any longer, 
started in search of him. At length he came to the spot ; but 
what was his terror when he beheld the deadly snake, with hood 
erect, as if in the act to strike ! ' Alas, my loved one,' he cried, 
' what madness tempted me to send thee forth to thy destruction ?' 
Meanwhile the snake, scared by his approach, and quickly contract- 
ing his hood, glided off, and the boy, awakened by the withdrawal 
of the shade, started up. The old man poured forth tears of 
gratitude, vowing never to let his precious child go forth into the 
forest again. 'Ah, what would I have done had I lost you?' he 
exclaimed ; ' you whom I cannot bear to be out of my sight for 
a moment. From the day I brought you to my house with only 
a few worn rags, and tended by the Bagdis, deep and unspeakable 
tenderness sprung up in my heart towards you. Your beautiful 
face, and the tears rolling down your little cheeks, will never be 
forgotten.' As upon the immeasurable surface of the ocean, no 
fish by its most rapid career raises a single ripple, so not all the 
swift events and constant changes of life can disturb the calm of 
true affection. 

Appx. E.] OF BISHENPORE. 441 

One day the boy found a golden ball in a water-course, and 
brought it to his master, who treasured it up with delight as a 
sign of the future greatness ©f his child. Soon afterwards, the 
king (an aboriginal prince) having died, his obsequies were cele- 
brated with great pomp, and people from all parts went to the 
funeral feast. The Brahman, being very poor, went among the 
rest, taking Raghu with him. When the Brahman was in the 
middle of his repast, the late king's elephant seized Raghu with 
his trunk, and approached the empty throne. Great was the 
consternation and terror lest the elephant should dash the boy 
to pieces ; but when the royal animal carefully placed the lad on 
the throne, the whole multitude, thunderstruck at seeing a deed 
so manifestly done by the will of God, filled the place with their 
acclamations, and the ministers agreed to crown the boy on the 
spot. So they made him king of the country ; and the singers 
came and poured forth their melodies, the musicians played on 
their instruments, and the minstrels tuned their harps, and recited 
the wonderful deed that had been done. 

For this was the custom in the old countries, that when the 
king died, the ministers did not crown the legal heir, but they 
made the king's white elephant, attended by all the officers of 
state, and covered with jewelled trappings, go through the capital 
in solemn procession ; and whomsoever among the multitude the 
elephant lifted on to its back, him they crowned, saying that it 
was the act of God. 

The ancients give other examples of a lad rising to the throne 
in consequence of having been auspiciously shaded by the hood 
of a cobra. For instance, a certain Brahman had in his house a 
poor boy, who tended his cattle. One day, as the boy lay asleep 
in the field, a hermit passing that way noticed that a black snake 
had raised its hood over the child's face to shelter him from the 
sun. As the hermit drew near, the snake fled, and the boy, 
awakening, shared the scanty supply of rice he had brought out 
with him for his mid-day meal with the holy man. On leaving, 
the hermit told the boy he would one day be a king, cautioning 
him, at the same time, not to sleep with his legs crossed, or his 
face looking right up to the sun, and ordering him to learn the 
art of war, and to accustom himself to arms. When next the 
hermit met the boy, he discovered certain marks, which foretell 
royalty, on the lad's feet ; and asked him what he would give to 


a hermit by whose advice he should reach the throne. The boy 
gladly answered that he would give anything the hermit asked. 
So the hermit told him how to begin with petty depredations on 
the adjoining chiefs, and by degrees, as he grew stronger, to carry 
on a more open warfare, until he had reduced all that part of 
the country. The hermit never took his eye off the youth ; and 
whenever he disobeyed any precept, the holy man punished him 
with stripes. In process of time the boy came to be king of all 
the country, and gave the hermit a lac of rupees, with the town- 
ship and lands of Chandpara at a fixed quit rent, whence that 
township is styled Chandpara of the Fixed Rent to this day. 
(Several other instances are here given, which, for the sake of 
brevity, may be omitted.) 

Raghu Nath Singh, therefore, was the first king of Bishenpore 
{i.e. the first king of Aryan birth, the aboriginal princes going for 
nothing with my worthy Pandit). He is celebrated in history as 
the king of the Bagdis (aborigines), and was the first of a race 
that has reigned nearly iioo years. He founded the city of 
Bishenpore, guided thither by auspicious signs. For long his 
kingdom passed under the name of Malabhumi (the land of the 
wrestlers), then as the jungle mahals (forest country) ; it is now 
included in the districts of Burdwan, Bancorah, and Beerbhoom. 

Beerbhoom is known as a place for heroes and Bagdis (abori- 
ginal castes). They Avore long black hair, and generally decorated 
themselves with iron ornaments, the most costly being of silver, 
and called Balla. For arms they had spears and javelins. The 
kings often employed them as guards of their palaces, owing to 
their skill in wrestling. They also joined with the wild tribes 
(i.e. aboriginal races of the highlands) in committing acts of 
plunder, and thus became a terror to the more peaceable in- 
habitants. The Nawab of Moorshedabad occasionally solicited 
their assistance in time of war. At the time when the Nawab 
was engaged in conflict with the Marhattahs, he requested his 
dependent kings to give him every support in their power. 
Accordingly the Rajah of Bishenpore despatched a band of his 
bravest heroes to the assistance of the Nawab. By their valour 
the Marhattahs were subdued, and from that time the Rajah of 
Bishenpore was the most renowned of the tributary kings of the 

The history of the kings of Bishenpore, written by Raja Gopal 

Appx. E.] of BISHENPORE. 443 

Sing, was found in the Bancoorah Collectorate. Guided by the 
facts contained therein, and collecting others from various sources, 
I proceed to give a chronicle of the kings of Bishenpore. One 
or two facts connected with the kings and their country may be 
given in passing. 

The kings belonged to the Kutumi branch of the Maharishi 
family. Their god was Acolong, and their goddess Pura, of the 
Ketti caste. The kings were followers of Shambad ; the high 
priest or Rishi was Bissa Mitra ; Brahmans who worshipped 
Vishnu were their religious guides. The sacred verse called 
Gatha, which the kings received at the time of the sacred thread 
Paitta^ is still in use. Bishenpore acquired a place in history 
from the time of Raja Raghu Nath Sing, whom the Bagdis 
(aborigines) called Raghu Nath. At the time of his coronation 
he was termed ' Original Wrestler,' or Adl Malla. 

1. Original Wrestler, Adi Malla. — The Raja was born in 122 
Bengali era (a.d. 715).^ He received a mark in his forehead 
from other kings, that is, was crowned in the year of Bishen- 
pore I. He reigned 34 years. His queen Chandra Rumari was 
the daughter of Indra Sing, a western prince of Solar. He built 
a temple in honour of the goddess Punta Surri. The capital was 

2. Raja Jai Malla. — This prince was born in 156 Bengali 
era (a.d. 749), and was crowned in the year of Bishenpore 34. 
He reigned 30 years, and died in 64 Bishenpore era. His queen 
was the daughter of Dinu Sing, a prince of the western Solar race. 
Raja Jai built a temple in honour of Sat Chako Behari. His 
Kamdar (steward and chancellor) was Bhagi Ratti Gope, who 
received the rents of the country of the Wrestlers. The king left 
two sons : the elder succeeded him, while the younger was pen- 
sioned. The race of the latter is now extinct. The Raja was a 
powerful monarch, and fond of pompous display. He increased 
the number of troops. 

3. Raja Ambhuchalla {otherwise Beni Malla). — The Raja was 
born in Sangbat, 186 Bengali era (a.d. 779), and his coronation 
took place in the year of Bishenpore 64. He reigned 12 years, 
and died in 76. His capital was Laogram. He married Kan- 

1 In matters of chronology I adopt not my Pandit's figures, which are often 
contradictory, but the family book of the kings of Bishenpore, and other Persian 
archives of ascertained accuracy, so far as dates are concerned. — Be. D. A. 


chan Muni, the daughter of Mattiar Sing, a western king of Solar 
race. His Kamdar, Bhagi Ratti Sing, held the same office as 
under the former king. He had five sons, of whom the eldest 
succeeded him, while the others received pensions. No descend- 
ants of theirs now remain. 

[Thus the Pandit goes on through a weary list of kings, all of 
whom married ladies of Aryan birth, Kshatryan princesses from 
the north, and most of whom employed Aryan settlers as their 
stewards and ministers. They warred with the adjoining princes 
— for the most part aborigines, but some of them rival Aryan 
immigrants — built temples, principally to Aryan divinities, but 
occasionally to the ghosts of celebrated men, according to the 
aboriginal ideas of worship ; but throughout this and all similar 
documents that I have examined, the importance of the aboriginal 
element and the frequency of its mention steadily decline. I 
give an example here and there, adopting the chronology of the 
family book, etc., instead of my Pandit's.] 

1 8. Raja Jaggat Malla. — The Raja was bom in 275 Bishen- 
pore era (a.d. 990), crowned in 318 (a.d. 1033), and died in 336 
(a.d. 105 i). Bishenpore was his capital. He married Chandra- 
batti, daughter of Golunda Sing. In the earlier part of his reign 
he erected a building in honour of Radha Binod Thakur, and 
another for Rush Mandip. His Kamdar (steward) was Gopal 
Sing. He left three sons. Bishenpore was the most renowned 
city in the world, and it became more beautiful than the beautified 
house of Indra in heaven. The buildings were of pure white 
stone. Within the walls of the palace were theatres, embellished 
rooms, dwelling-houses, and dressing-rooms. There were also 
houses for elephants, baiTacks for soldiers, stables, storehouses, 
armouries, a treasury, and a temple. The king secured fame by 
adding to the magnificence of the city. It was during his reign 
that a number of merchants established themselves in the city. 

33. Raja Ram Malla {K/ietra Naih Malla ?). — The Raja was 
crowned in 564 (a.d. 1277), and died in 587 (a.d. 1300), after a 
reign of 23 years. His consort was Sukumari Bai, daughter 
of Nand Lall Sing. In his reign a temple was built to the god 
Radha Kanta Jin (apparently to the ghost of some hero), and cost 
an enormous sum. The Kamdar (steward) was Jagu Mandhar 
Goho. The king left four sons. At this time the fort was im- 
proved, and various sorts of fire-engines were brought into it. A 

Appx. E.] of BISHENPORE. 445 

governor was apiDointed, with orders to prepare uniform for the 
army. The soldiers learned the use of arms more perfectly, and 
the high renown they bore was sufficient to strike terror even into 
the hearts of the giant race. In this reign no foreign prince 
ventured to attack Bishenpore.-' 

48. Raja Birhambar. — He was born in 868, and succeeded 
to the throne in 8S1 Bishenpore era (a.d. 1596). He reigned 26 
years. This king had four wives and twenty-two sons. Three 
temples were erected in his reign. The fort received its last em 
bellishment, and guns were mounted on the walls. He led his 
forces against the Nawab of Moorshedabad ; but, understanding 
that he was the Lord Superior of the country, he paid 167,000 
rupees (;i^i 7,000) as tribute, and returned to his capital. His 
Kamdar was Durga Prasand Ghor. 

54. Raja Gopal Singh. — This prince was born in 975 Bishen- 
pore era, and died in 1055 (a.d. 1708),^ after a reign of 38 years. 
He was married to the daughter of Raghunath Tungu, whose 
capital was Tungubhumi. Five temples were erected in his 
reign. At this time the Marhattahs, under the command of 
Bhaskar Pandit, appeared before the southern gate of the fort of 
Bishenpore. The Raja met them with his troops, but victory 
leaned to the side of his enemies. By the favour of the god 
Modan Mohan, it is said, the guns were fired \vithout any human 
assistance. Among the slain was the Marhattah general. The 
Bishenpore troops plundered the enemy, and retired within the 
fort. Others relate that the king, by his own prowess, slew many 
of the opponents ; but, failing to take the life of the general, he 
declined a second battle, and fled into the fort. Upon this the 
Marhattas renewed the attack, but were effectually repelled by 
the guns. Maharajah Kritti Chund Bahadur of Burdwan also 
attacked Bishenpore, and defeated its king, but soon after joined 
in league with him against the Marhattahs. The king left two 
sons, of whom the elder succeeded him. Upon the younger 
was bestowed the Jagir of Jamkundi, which possession his de- 
scendants still retain. 

[Thus the chronicle goes on. One prince digs tanks and sets 

' I am unable to identify Ram Malla with the name of any king in the 
chronological MSS., so I give him the date and reign of the thirty-third king 
in the family lists, as he has that position in my Pandit's chronicle. — Be. D. A. 


up idols, often representing aboriginal worship ; another en- 
courages trade ; a fourth goes to war. The eldest son, if living, 
succeeded to the throne, but the others had a right to a suitable 
provision. The Bishenpore family appears sometimes as the 
enemy, sometimes as the ally, and sometimes as the tributary, 
of the Mussulman Nawab, but it was formally exempted from 
personal attendance at the court of Moorshedabad, and appeared, 
like the English in later days, by a representative or resident at 
the Durbar. Of several princes it is recorded that they en- 
couraged trade, and that strangers settled in their capital ; one 
appointed two judges, another improved the fortifications ; and 
the family drop the patronymic of Wrestler (one of the last relics 
of ancient aboriginal influences), and take that of Sing after the 
50th lineal prince (922 Bishenpore era, a.d. 1637). In the i8th 
century the family rapidly declined ; the Marhattas impoverished 
them; the famine of 1770 left their kingdom empty of inhabit- 
ants ; and the English, treating these tributary princes as mere 
land-stewards, added to their public burdens at pleasure, and 
completed their ruin. ' After the idol Modan Mohan,' a rem- 
nant of aboriginal worship, ' was removed from Bishenpore, the 
city began to fall into decay. Owing to his great indigence, the 
Raja pawned the idol to Gokal Chandra Mittra of Calcutta. 
Some time after, the unfortunate prince with great difficulty 
managed to collect the amount required to redeem it, and sent 
his minister to Calcutta to bring home the pledge. Gokal 
received the money, but refused to restore the idol. The case 
was brought before the Supreme Court at Calcutta, and was 
decided in favour of the Rajah ; and Gokal caused a second 
idol to be made, exactly resembling the original, and presented 
it to the Rajah.' Thus ends the Pandit's chronicle.] 



The following is given not for its intrinsic interest, but as a 
specimen of the chronological archives of native houses. The 
original is a Persian MS. obtained from the Rajah's dilapidated 

The Family Book. 

This is the family book of the Rajahs of Beerbhoom — setting 
forth the year in which each Rajah ascended the throne, how 
long he reigned, in what place he dwelt, and of what disease he 

ist. Diwan Ranmast Khan Bahadur reigned from the begin- 
ning of Jeyt 1007 Bengal era (1600 a.d.) to ist Kartik 1066 
Bengal era (a.d. 1659), when he died of fever. 

2d. Diwan Kwajah Kamal Khan Bahadur, son of the de- 
ceased, reigned from 1066 Bengal era (a.d. 1659) to 1104 b.e. 
(a.d. 1697), and died of fever. His body was buried in the Great 
Flower Garden. He reigned thirty-eight years, four months, and 
thirteen days. 

2)d. Diwan Asd UUa Khan, son of Diwan Kwajah, reigned 
from 1104 Bengal era (a.d. 1697) to 1125 b.e. (a.d. 1718). His 
reign was twenty-one years, one month, and twenty days. He 
named his sons Azim Khan and Badyal Zaman Khan his heirs, 
and died. 

^h. Diwan Badya Al Zaman Khan reigned from 1125 Bengal 
era (a.d. 17 18) to 1158 b.e. (a.d. 1751). The days of his reign 
were thirty-three years. He named his four sons, Ahmad al 
Zaman Khan, Mahamad Ali Naki Khan, Asd al Zaman Khan, 
and Bahadur Al Zaman Khan, his heirs ; and with the consent 
of the other three, raised his third son, Asd Al Zaman Khan, to 


the throne, on the ist Bysach 1159 b.e. He died in T178 b.e. 
His body was buried in the Flower Garden. 

Ahmad Al Zuman Khan, eldest son, died before his father's 
eyes in Rajnagar on the 15th Magh 1169 Bengal era (a.d. 1762). 
His body was buried in the Great Imam Barah. 

Mahamad Ali Naki Khan Bahadur died 21st Phalgan 1171 
(a.d. 1764) Bengal era, at Rajnagar. His body was buried side 
by side with his elder brother in the Great Imam Barah. 

^th. Rajah Mahamad Asd al Zaman Khan Bahadur reigned 
from the ist Bysach 1159 Bengal era (a.d. 1752) to 1184 b.e. 
(a.d. 1777). In 1 184, having gone to the city of Calcutta, in- 
habited by many noble men, he fell sick of callej, and died. His 
body was carried home and buried in the Flower Garden. The 
days of his reign were twenty-six years. [Callej is a sort of 
paralysis, caused, according to native ideas, by a bird casting his 
shadow on a person.] 

dth. Mahamad Bahadur al Zaman Khan reigned, after the 
death of his brother, from the beginning of 1185 Bengal era 
(a.d. 1778) to 1 196 B.E. (a.d. 1789). The days of his reign 
were twelve years. During his lifetime, in the year 1193 b.e., 
he made his little son sign and seal all papers of state, and 
taught his son all the duties and customs of a prince. In 1196, 
being sick of dropsy in the testicles, in his country-house at 
Haseinabad, he died. His body was borne to the royal city, and 
laid in the Flower Garden. 

•]th. Rajah Mahamad al Zaman Khan Bahadur, on the death 
of his father, being a minor, succeeded. He performed the 
offices of royalty, and sealed and signed the state papers. By 
reason of his being a minor, Mr. Keating was Sarbarakar, and 
Lai Ram Nath was Diwan. In 1197 Bengal era (a.d. 1790) 
he came of age, and obtained a sanad from the Government for 
the kingdom of Beerbhoom. The days of his reign were twelve 
years. Being sick (of Sanjar-Pota), he died on 5th Phalgun 1208 
b.e. (a.d. 1801), in the Palace with the Twelve Gates. His 
body was buried in the Great Flower Garden. 

Wi. Rajah Mahamad Daura al Zaman Khan reigned in the 
room of his father from 1209 Bengal era (a.d. 1802), He obtained 
a sanad of the kingdom from Government in 1219 b.e. (a.d. 1812). 
Being afflicted with Sanjar, he died in the royal city on 17th 
Phalgun 1262 (1855). He named his son Mahamad Johar al 

Appx. F.] the princes OF BISHENPORE. 449 

Zaman Khan and Ram Bakshan his wife and heirs. His body 
is buried in front of the mosque in the Market Place of the 
royal city. 

This family book of the house of Nagar was copied on the 
28th Magh 1 27 1 Bengal era (a.d. 1864), on Thursday (Panch 
Shambah), and finished at 9 a.m. in Soory, according to order, 
by Sheikh Rahm Baksh, Mooktear (my Munshi). 

[I have found it impossible to adhere to a uniform system of 
spelling, as many places have now acquired an official ortho- 
graphy which it would be mere pedantry not to recognise 3 thus, 
Bishenpore for Vishnupur, etc.] 

VOL. I. 2 F 


I. — Formation of the Earth. 

Of old, all this was a sea ; there were two birds — a drake and 
a duck. They were brooding above (the water). Then Marang 
Buru (supposed to be the same as Siva of the Hindus) said, 
'Where shall I place these birds?' He said, 'In the midst of 
the sea there is a lotus.' Then he said, 'Who will raise up 
this earth ? There is a crab ; go ye and call him.' They having 
called the crab, he came, and standing by Marang Buru, inquired, 
'Why have you called me?' 'For this only: could you raise 
up this earth?' 'O yes; if you command me, I could raise it.' 
Then the crab, taking earth in his claws, and raising it up, the 
earth all washed away. Then Marang Buru said, ' This fellow can 
never raise this earth. Who (else) is there out there?' 'There 
is no one but an earth-worm-king.' ' Go ye, then, and call 
him.' They having called the earth-worm-king, he said, ' Where- 
fore, O Great Lord, (and) Marang Buru, have ye called me?' 
' Oh, nothing; only, could you raise up this earth here?' ' Yes, 
though I could not raise it alone.' Then the Great Lord inquired 
of him, 'Who is there out there?' 'No one; only a tortoise. 
If he would take me on his head, I could raise up the earth.' 
' Then call the tortoise.' 

The tortoise coming, said, ' O Great Lord, and Marang Buru, 
wherefore have ye called me?' ' Nothing ; only, could you take 
this earth on your head here ?' ' Yes, receiving your commands, 
I could raise it ; but you must chain my four feet to the four 
comers (of the earth) : then I shall be able to raise it.' Then 
they having chained him (the tortoise), the earth-worm-king raised 
up the earth on the leaf of the lotus. 

Then said the Great Lord to Marang Buru, ' Go ye, see, and 
bring us word.' Then Marang Buru, descending, came and saw, 


and tried it with the pressure of his foot, but found it unsteady 
(floating). Then Marang Buru, returning to the Great Lord, 
said, * The thing is this : it is unsteady (floating).' Then the 
Great Lord said to him, ' Then go thou and sow the seeds of 
grass, and let the roots take fast hold.' 

II. — The First Human Pair. 

Then was produced the hena (a kind of coarse grass). On 
that bena the drake and duck, descending, laid their eggs. 
Having incubated, they hatched out two persons (a brother and 

After this the Great Lord inquired of Marang Buru, ' How is 
it?' Then he replied to him, 'Only two persons are born.' 
' Well, if they have been born, let them remain there.' (Again) 
the Great Lord said to Marang Buru, ' Go, look at them, and 
bring me word.' Then Marang Buru, going, saw them, and 
brought word : ' O Great Lord, I went and saw them. They 
have grown up, but are destitute of clothing.' 

III. — Garments Supplied. 

Then the Great Lord said, ' O Marang Buru, take them two 
cloths — one of ten cubits, and one of twelve cubits.' Having 
taken them the cloths, they inquired, ' O grandfather, whither 
have you come ?' ' Hither, O grandson, have I come to visit 
you.' ' We are well.' ' Then, O grandson, put on this cloth.' 
Then he gave the boy the ten-cubit cloth, and the girl the twelve- 
cubit cloth. Then the boy's cloth served only for a ropani (the 
cloth that is attached before and behind to a string passing 
around the loins). The twelve-cubit cloth barely covered the 
girl's loins. 

IV. — The Preparation of Intoxicating Liquor. 

Moreover, the Great Lord said to him, ' O Marang Buru, go 
and see those two persons.' Then Marang Buru, having been 
and seen them, said to them, ' O grandchildren, I have a 
matter to tell you two. Will ye hear me ? ' ' Yes, O grand- 
father ; speak, we will listen.' ' It is this : I give to you two 
yeast. Take it, and put it into a hdnda ' (earthen pot). ' Yes, we 


will do that.' Then they prepared the hdnda; and after four 
days he came (again) to see them. ' O grandchildren, have you 
prepared the hdnda, as I told you at that time ?' ' Yes, O grand- 
father, we have put the hdnda in order.' ' Then show me what 
you have done.' Then, having seen, he said to them, ' O grand- 
children, fill ye up with water ' (the hdnda). They having filled 
up the hdnda with water, Marang Buru inquired of them, ' O 
grandchildren, have you supplied the water ? Then make cups 
of leaves, O grandchildren : have you made the cups ? ' ' Yes, 
O grandfather, we have made the cups.' ' Then bring them.' 
They (brought them, and) said, ' Take, O grandfather, and drink.' 
' No, O grandson, there is one thing to be done.' They then 
inquired, ' What is it ? ' ' First, you must worship (with a liba- 
tion) this Marang Buru ' {i.e. me, the Marang Buru). 

V. — The Propagation of Children. 

Then they two, having worshipped Marang Buru, he said, 
' Now, drink ye.' They said, ' O grandfather, take thou and 
drink.' ' No, grandchildren, take ye and drink.' Again said 
Marang Buru, ' Drink ye ; I will return home.' Then they two 
drank, and became drunk. After that, Marang Buru returning, 
saw them that they were greatly intoxicated. This one was 
lying in one place, and that one in another place. Marang Buru 
seeing them thus lying drunk, drew them together. Then they 
two lay together as man and wife. 

The next day Marang Buru, visiting them early in the 
morning, saw them lying together, and said, ' Ho, then, O grand- 
children, are you not up yet ? ' ' Ah, grandfather, this is very 
bad. You made us very drunk yesterday. Oh, shame, grand- 
father ; but so it is. Now, what can be done ?' 

Then, remaining there, seven sons and seven daughters were 
born to them two. After a time they were driven away by the 
Marja Tudukko. 

VI. — The Dispersion. 

* Under the thorn bush they hid me, 
Under the tall grass they concealed me.' 

Then, being unable to remain longer there, they took them 
(their children) to the foot of Chae Champa, and there they 


remained. Dwelling there, they greatly multiplied. There were 
(two gates), the Ahin gate and the Bahini gate, to the fort of 
Chae Champa. 

Then Pilchu-hanam and Pilchu-brudhi (the original pair) 
divided them (their posterity) into different castes. The first-born 
became Nijhasda-had ; after him was Nij Murmu-had ; after him 
was Nij Saren-had ; after him was Nijtati-jhari-has-da-had ; after 
him was Nijmarndi-had ; after him was Nijkesku-had ; and after 
him was Nijtudu-had. 

Then they went out from the foot of Chae Champa, and, 
departing, they Avere spread abroad and scattered in Dugdarahed. 
From these, some went to the country of Sing ; others went to 
Sikar ; others to Tundi ; and others went to Katara. Then 
others went and departed thence, and were scattered every- 
where. From that time to the present, men have gone on mul- 
tiplying in the world. 

[These legends were collected among the southern Santals, 
and forwarded to me by the Baptist missionary, Mr. Phillips. 
They are substantially the same as the traditions of the central 
Santals, but the spelling of proper names is slightly different.] 



Based on the Rev. J. Phillips' ' Introduction to the Santal Lan- 
guage^ with additions from other Missionaries., and from my 
own researches. 

I. Pronunciation. 

Santali exhibits a peculiar sharp stop occurring sometimes in 
the middle, but more frequently at the end, of certain words, and 
caused by the dropping of a letter. Thus da., ' water,' with an 
abrupt jerk between it and the next word, from the original root 
dag, ' water,' as shown in dag-ai, ' it will rain.' It is impossible 
to describe this sound accurately, but its effect is generally to 
produce an aspirate breathing, and it is represented by Santal 
students sometimes by ! , and sometimes by the Sanskrit visarga 
(:), to which it bears a phonetic resemblance. 

II. Alphabet. 

The Bengali alphabet precisely fits Santah, except that the 
compound vowel ri in Santali has only the simple r/ sound, 
as indeed it has practically in low Bengali. The same may be 
said of //. 

The vowel a is inherent to the Santali consonants, except in 
the case of final consonants, and in a few words even to the latter 
class : thus hard, not hdr, ' a tortoise ; ' Mkd, not dak, ' the heart.' 

III. Pronominals. 

{a.) Inflectional pronominals. These are added on to the 
root, and are of two kinds : (i) Those that form true compounds 
with roots, as the inflections of duality and plurality : thus hi^l, 
'a tiger;' dual, hulkin ; -plural, hulko. Xi^lkin a.nd hulko become 
in turn the base to which the case-endings are stuck on. (2) The 

Appx. H.] a skeleton SAN TALI GRAMMAR. 455 

case-endings, which, as will be seen from the paradigm of the noun, 
are very numerous, and which are in fact merely postpositions, not 
incorporated with the root, and but slightly cohering to it. 

(b.) The Personal Pronouns : 

Singular. Dual. 

1st. Ing, / (contracted (Alang, we tivo, i.e. you and /. 

for aing). (Aling, tve two, i.e. he and /. 

2d. Am, thou. Aben, you tivo. 

3d. Huni, he, she. Hunkin, \ fj , t 

Ona, it. Onakin, \ '-^ 


Ape, ye 


The possessives are formed either by prefixing t to the simple 
pronouns, or by adding the regular genitive case-endings to a 
compound form of the personal pronouns ; thus : 


1st. Ting, or ai-rini, my. 
2d. Tarn, akin-rini, thy. 
3d. Tai, ake-rini, his. 


Taling, or ai-ren-kin, oj us two. 
Taben, akin-ren-kin, of you two. 
Takin, ake-ren-kin, of them two. 


1st. Tale, taben, or a'i-ren-ko, our. 
2d. Tape, akin-renko, yotir. 
3d. Tako, ako-ren-ko, their. 

(c.) Demonstratives : 

Huni, uni, hani, hana, hona, una, that. 
Nui, nua, nia, this, etc. 

(d.) Pronominals of quantity 

Mih, one. 

Mi -mi, each. 

Eta, other. 

Ar, ar-ho, more, moreover. 

Chet, what? 

Chet-hong, anything. 

Chet-leko, how ? 

The Numerals : 

1, Mih. 

2, Barea. 

3, Pea. 

4, Ponea. 

5, Mane. 

6, Turin. 

7, Eae. 

8, Irak 

9, Are. 
10, Gel. 

Tina, some. 

Nuna, so much. 

Nase-nase, some, a little. 

Adhan, half, a few. 

Amana, wide, many, much. 

Joto, all. 

Tin-tina, how much ? 

1 00, 
































It will be noticed that up to 200 the notation is by scores ; 
the numbers between 10 and 20 are formed by affixing the simple 
number to 10 ; thus : gel-mih, 11 ; gel-pea, 13, etc. 

{e.) Pronominals of Time : 

Nit, 710W. 

Teheng, to-day. 

Hala, yesterday. 

Mahander, day before yesterday. 

Onmahander, three days ago. 

Gapa, to-morrow. 

Meang, day after to-morrow. 

Enderai, three days hence. 

Anga, dawn. Setah, morning. 

Baskereda, 9 a. m. 

Tikin, 7ioon. 

Tarasing, 3/.w- 

Ayup, evening. 

{/. ) Pronominals of Place : 

Nante, het'e (proximate). 
Ante, there (intermediate). 
Hante, hanare, there (remote). 
Jahangre, where. 
Samang, in front of. 


Mih-ronga, one jjionth. 
Mili-serma, one year. 
Nes, this year. 
Kalom, 7text year. 
Satom, two years hence. 
Pher-Satom, three years hettce. 
Din-Kalom, last year. 
Hal-Kalom, last year but one. 
Mahang-Kalom, three years ago. 
Tis, ivhen ? 
Enang, then (past). 
Dhinang, then (future). 
Manang, before. 

Bedhai, all round. 
No-parom, this side. 
An-parom, that side. 
Okakhon, zvhence. 
Udungre, outside. 
etc. etc. 

For fuller lists, see the Rev. Mr. Phillips' Introduction, p. 54 
et seq. (Calcutta, 1854.) 

IV. Roots. 
{a.) Nouns have one declension, three numbers — singular, 
dual, and plural — with eight cases in each. Thus : 

Kul, a tiger. 

Singular : 

Wi?»?. Kill. Ace. IsmI, same as nominative. 

Gen. Kul-rmih, renko, rea, renkin. Abl. Kul-khon, khonah, thenkhon. 

Inst. Kul-iate, hatete. Loc. Kul-re, talare. 

Dat. Kul-then, theh, siirate, phed. Voc. Eho-kul. 

Dual, Kulkin ; Plural, Kulko — 

forming inflections by means of the same postpositions as the 

singular. Besides the postpositions given above, there are many 

others. Santali makes hardly any use of prepositions, but tacks 

the particles on to the end of the word which they govern. 

Santali is devoid of abstract nouns, but supplies the want by a 

free use of the neuter fonn of the verb ; thus, instead of saying, 

' The English statutes are just,' a Santal would say, ' The English 

have-ordained (neuter form) is just.' 

Appx. H.] a skeleton SANTALI grammar. 457 

{b) Verbs. 

Mr. Phillips states that the Santal verb has four voices (active, 
middle, passive, and neuter) ; five moods (indicative, subjunctive, 
potential, imperative, and infinitive) ; nine tenses (the future, pre- 
sent, present definite, imperfect, imperfect definite, perfect, perfect 
definite, pluperfect, pluperfect definite ; of which the following 
paradigms illustrate five). 

The Santal verb has three numbers — singular, dual, and plural. 

It has also two genders — common {i.e. masculine or feminine) 
and neuter. It has the peculiarity of agreeing in number, gender, 
and person, not only with the noun that governs it, but with the 
noun it governs ; part of the verb agreeing with the former, part 
with the latter, in the nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative 
cases. [Mr. Puxley's unpublished researches are my principal 
authority for this part of the grammar.] 

The verb 'to be' is irregular in Santali, as in most other 
languages ; that is to say, several verbs are employed, none of 
which has survived in a perfect and complete form. Mend is 
used in the present tense, thus : 


Singular. Dual. Plural. 

1st. Men-aing-jna, /«;«. Men-almg-ya. Men-ale-a. 

2d. Men-ama, thou art. Men-aben-a. Men-ape-a. 

^ , \ Men-aia, lie or she is. -mt ^ ■ i Men-ako-a. 

3^- JMen-ah-a, /^.>. Men-akin-a. j Men-ah-a. 


1st. Men-aing-khan, If I am. Men-aling-khan. Men-ale-khan. 

2d. M.'^n-ava-kha.n, If thou art. Men-aben-khan. Men-ape-khan. 

3d. Men-ai-khan, If he is. Men-akin-khan. Men-ako-khan. 

Possessive Form. 
Agreeing in number and person with the nominative and genitive. 

1st. Men-ah-tmg-jna, It is mine. 

2d. MQn-^.mg-tz.ra3., I a??i yo2irs. ^ Singular. 

3d. Men-akin-taya, Those tzuo are his. ) 


1st. Men-ai-taling-ya, It belongs to us two. 

2d. 'Me\\-^,h.-iahtn-^., It belo7igs to yoic two. > Dual. 

3d. Men-ale-takin-a, It belongs to them two. \ 


1st. Men-ako-tale-a, Those are otirs. ) 

2d. Men-aling-tape-ya, IFe two are yours. \ Plural. 

3d. Men-aben-tako-a, Yoti tivo are theirs. ) 


The other tenses of the substantive verb are suppHed by 
taken, remain ; thus : 

Intransitive verb, Tahen, remain. 

Indicative Mood. 

1st. Tahen-aing, 
2d. Tahen-am. 
3d. Tahen-ai. 

Future Tense, I shall remaifi. 
Tahen -aling. 

1st. Tahen-kan-ai. 

2d. Tahen- kan-am. 

3d. Tahen-kan-ai. 

1st. Tahen-en-aing. 

2d. Tahen-en-am. 

3d. Tahen-en-ai. 

Present, I remain. 


Imperfect, I remained. 


Tahen -kan-ape. 


The numbers and persons of the other tenses are formed 
with equal regularity, so that it is only necessary to give the first 
person singular, dual, and plural of each ; thus : 

Perfect, / have remaitzed. 
Singular. Dual. 

1st. Tahen -akan-aing. Tahen-akan-aling. 

Pluperfect, I had remained. 
1st. Tahen-len-aing. Tahen-len-almg. 

Subjunctive Mood. 

Future Tense, / may remain. 
1st. Tahen-cho-ing. Tahen-cho-ling. 

2d. Tahen-chom. Tahen-cho-ben. 

3d. Tahen-cho-e. Tahen-cho-kin. 

Present, If I remain. 
1st. Tahen-khan-eng. Tahen-khan-aling. 

Imperfect, Should I remain. 
1st. Tahen-en-khan-eng. Tahen-en-khan-aHng. 

Perfect, / may have rejnained. 

1st. Tahen-akan-khan-eng. Tahen-akan-khan-aling. Tahen-akan-khan-ale. 

Pluperfect, I might have remained. 

1st. Tahen-len-khan-eng. Tahen-len -khan -aling. Tahen-len-khan-ale. 

Potential Mood. 

/ could have remained. 

Singular. Dual. Plw-al. 

1st. Tahen-koh-aing. Tahen-koh-aling. Tahen-koh-ale. 

2d. Tahen-koh-am. Tahen-koh-aben. Tahen-koh-ape. 

3d. Tahen-koh-ai. Tahen-koh-akin. Tahen -koh-ako. 




Tah en-khan-ale. 


Appx. H.] a skeleton SANTA LI GRAMMAR. 459 

Imperative Mood. 

Singular. Dual. Plural. 

1st. Tahen-ma-ing. Tahen-ma-ling. Tahen-ma-le. 

2d. Tahen-me, or me-a. Tahen-ben, or bena. Tahen-pe, or pea. 

3d. Tahen-ma-i. Tahen-ma-kin. Tahen-ma-ko. 

Infinitive Mood. 

Tahen-ate, to remain. 

Present, Tahen-ka-te, remai7iing. 
Past, Tahen-eii-khan, having remained. 


Tahen-en-te, 1 

Tahen-akan-te, > By remaining, or having remained. 

Tahen-len-te, ) 

One other paradigm must suffice. In the intransitive verb 
taken, we have exhibited the agreement of the Santal verb with 
its nominative in number and person ; the transitive verb ddl, 
strike, presents the agreement in number and person with the 
accusative it governs. It will be observed that the root of the 
verb comes first, then the accusative, then the nominative. As 
the nominative is regular throughout, and undergoes no phonetic 
change, it will save space to give it separately, and afterwards 
only with the first tense of the indicative and subjunctive moods, 
the latter of which uses a contracted form. 

Nominative case, for verbs, in the Indicative Mood : 

Singular. < Dual. Plural. 

1st. Aing, /. -^ling, we tzvo. Ale, or Abaii, we. 

2d. Am, thou. Aben, you two. Ape, you. 

3d.' Ai, he. Akin, they two. Ako, they. 

Nominative Case, Subjunctive Mood : 

1st. Eng. Leng. Le or Ban. 

2d. Em. Ben. Pe. 

3d. E. Kin. Ko. 

Transitive Verb, Dal, strike. — Indicative Mood. 

Future Tense. 


1st. Dal-eng-jna-ai, He will strike me. ^ 

2d. Dal-me-aing, I will strike thee. 

3d. Dal-e-am, Thou wilt strike him. 

1 Observe that the person and number of the verb are regulated not by the 
nominative governing it, but by the accusative governed by it. 



1st. Dal-alinga-akin, They two will strike us two. 
2d. Dal-abena-aling, We two will strike you two. 
3d. Dal-akina-aben, You two will strike them two. 


1st. Dal-alea-ako, They will strike zis. 
2d. Dal-apea-ale, We will strike you. 
3d. Dal-akoa-ape, You will strike them. 

In the subsequent tenses of the indicative, I omit the nomina- 
tive pronoun. 

Present Definite. 

Singular. Dual. 

1st. Dal-eng-kana, is striking me. Dal-eh-ling-kana, 71s two. 

2d. Dal-eh-me-kana, is striking thee. Dal-eh-ben-kana, yoti tiuo. 

3d. Dal-e-kana, ts striking him. Dal-eh-kin-kana, they two. 


1st. Dal-eh-le-kana, is striking us. 
2d. Dal-eh-pe-kana, is striking you. 
3d. Dal-eh-ko-kana, is striking the?n. 
3d person, neuter, Da-dal-kana, is strikijig it or them. 

Present Indefinite. 
Singular. Dual. Plural. 

1st. Dal-ed-ing-jna, strikes me. Dal-eh-lingya. Dal-eh-lea, tis. 

2d. Dal-eh-mea, strikes thee. Dal-eh-bena. Dal-eh-pea, yoii. 

3d. Dal-ed-ea, strikes it. Dal-eh-kma. Dal-eh-koa, them. 

3d person, neuter, Dal-e-da, strikes it or them. 

In the same way are formed the numbers and persons of the 
remaining tenses of the indicative. I therefore give only the first 
person of each : 


Singular. Dual. Plural. 

1st. Dal-ked-ing-jna. Dal-ket-lingya. Dal-ket-lea. 

Struck me. Struck us two. Struck us. 


1st. Dal-akad-ing-jna. Dal-akat-lingya. Dal-akat-lea. 

Has struck me. Has struck us two. Has struck us. 


1st. Dal-led-ing-jna. Dal-let-lingya. Dal-let-lea. 

Had struck me. Had struck us two. Had struck us. 

The three compound past tenses are regularly formed from 
the simple tense, with the auxiliary taken, to be. Thus : 

Imperfect definite. — Dal-eh-me-taheng-kan-ai, He was striking thee. 

Perfect fl'i^;zzV^.— Dal-akat-me-taheng-kan-ako, They have been striking thee. 

Phiperfect definite. — Dal-let-me-taheng-kan-aing, I had been striking thee. 


Subjunctive Mood. 
Future Tense, with the nominatives afifixed. 


1st. Dal-eng-cho-e, He may strike me. 
2d. Dal-me-cho-eng, / Diay strike thee. 
3d. Dal-e-cho-em, Yoii may strike him. 


1st. Dal-alTng-cho-km, They tiuo may strike us two. 
2d. Dal-aben-cho-leng, We tzuo may strike you two. 
3d. Dal-akin-cho-ben, You tzvo 7nay strike them two. 


1st. Dal-ale-cho-ko, They may strike tis. 
2d. Dal-ape-cho-le, We may strike you. 
3d. Dal-ako-cho-pe, You may strike them. 

3d person neuter — Dal-cho-e, He may strike it, or them. 

Present, if {he, etc.) struck, without the nominative expressed 


1st, Dal-eng-khan. 
2d. Dal-me-khan. 
3d. Dal-e-khan. 





Imperfect, if [he, etc.) struck, nominative not expressed. 
1st. Dal-ked-ing-khan. Dal-ket-ling-khan. Dal-ket-le-khan. 

Perfect, nominative not expressed, 
rst. Dal-akad-ing-khan. Dal-akat-ling-khan. Dal-akat-le-khan. 

Pluperfect, nominative not expressed. 
1st. Dal -ling-khan. Dal-le-ling-khan. Dal-le-le-khan. 

1st. Dal-king-jna. 
2d. Dal-ke-ma. 
3d. Dal-ke-a. 

Strike me. 

Potential Mood. 

Nominative not exiDressed. 


Imperative Mood. 

'^lou two strike them. 


Do ye strike it. 

Infinitive Mood, 

Da-dal-ate, to strike it, Dal-ko-te, to strike them. 


Dal-ka-te, strikiizg. 
Dal-ket-khan, having struck. 



Dal-ket-te, ) 

Dal-akat-te, > By striking, etc. 

Dal-let-te, ) 

The reflective verb (or middle voice) is formed by conjugating 
the active verb with the inflections of the intransitive verb, as 
exhibited in taken, p. 458. In the future and present tenses, 
oh is inserted between the root and the inflection ; thus : 

Future, Dal-oh-aing, / shall strike myself. 
Pres. def., Dal-oh-kaii-aing, I am striking myself. 
Impetfect, Dal-en-aing, I struck myself. 
Perfect, Dal-akan-aing, I have stj-uck myself. 

The rest of the middle voice is formed, like the imperfect and 
perfect tenses, by the addition of the inflections of the intran- 
sitive verb. 

The causal verb is obtained by inserting ocho or ho-cho im- 
mediately after the root, and using the inflections of the transitive 
verb, as shown in dal (p. 460) ; thus : 

Ftittire, Dal-ocho-me-aing, / shall cause thee to be beaten. 
Present, Dal-ocho-eh-me-kan-aing, I cajtse thee to be beaten. 
Imperfect, Dal-ocho-ket-me-aing, I caiised thee to be beaten. 
Perfect, Dal-ocho-akat-me-aing, I have caused you to be beaten. 

And so on throughout the other moods and tenses. 

The foregoing will suffice to show the general character of 
Santali, and to fix its place among languages. Mr. Phillips' 
Introduction exhibits, in Bengali characters, its forms at greater 
length ; and I hope that the Rev. Mr. Puxley may be induced 
at no distant date to publish the more complete and scientific 
grammar for which he has been collecting materials during many 
years. To both of those gentlemen I beg once more to ac- 
knowledge my obligations. 



1. Johorai — after gathering in the December rice-harvest ; 
lasts five days in each village, but is generally protracted to a 
month, by fixing different days for it in neighbouring villages. 
The ceremony is simple. An egg is placed on the ground ; all 
the cows of the village are driven near to it, and the animal that 
first smells at the ^gg is honoured by having its horns rubbed 
with oil. 

2. Sakrat — a few days after the Johorai ; lasts two days. It 
consists of practising with bows and arrows, performing the sword 
dance, and similar sports. 

3. Jdtrd — about February ; lasts two days. Eight men sit 
on chairs ; are swung round the two posts placed outside of every 
Santal village. The same sort of revolving swing as is set up for 
the children in English fairs. 

4. Bdhd ('flower') — about March; lasts two days. Every house 
washes the Naikki's (priest's) feet, and he distributes flowers in 
return. Ceremonies take place in the grove of trees outside each 
village. Four chickens are offered to Marang Buru (the great 
god of the Santals) ; one coloured chicken to Jahir-era (the 
primeval mother of the race) ; one black chicken to Gosain-era 
(a female divinity residing, like Jahir-era, in the Sal grove) ; and 
a goat or chicken to the Manjhi Haram (the late head of the 

5. Pbtd (hook-swinging) ; now stopped by Government, but 
still practised (1865) among the northern Santals in April or May. 
Lasted about one month. Young men used to swing with hooks 
through their back, as in the Charak Puja of the Hindus. The 
swingers used to fast the day preceding and the day following the 
operation, and to sleep the intermediate night on thorns. 

6. Ero-sim (sowing chicken) ; offered in each house at seed- 
sowing time. 


7. Hariar-sim (green chicken) ; offered by the Naikki (priest) 
when the dhan has somewhat gro\vn. 

8. Chhdtd (' umbrella ') — about August ; lasts five days. The 
Naikki (priest) offers a goat, and the people all dance round a 
bamboo umbrella erected on a high pole. 

9. Iri-gundli (two kinds of grain). The Ndikki (priest) offers 
these with milk in the Jahir-than (Sal grove), and calls upon the 
poor to come and eat. 

10. Horo (rice) — when the rice is ripening. The first-fruits of 
the rice are offered to the Pargana Bongd (the district deities), 
along with a pig, which the men of the village afterwards eat in 
the Sal grove. 

In all these festivals there is a great quantity of rice-beer 



No. I. — General Iiistructious to the Civil Officers. Despatch No. 
\1^(i,froin the Government of Be^igal, dated T^oth July 1855. 

Sir, — You will have been made aware, before this communica- 
tion reaches you, that Major-General Lloyd has been appointed 
to take command of the whole of the troops operating against the 

2d. General Lloyd has been directed by the Supreme Govern- 
ment to proceed in the first instance to Rajmehal. He has been 
informed that the President in Council, considering it very desir- 
able that prompt and speedy measures should be taken to put 
down the insurrection, has resolved upon placing the conduct of 
the operations entirely in his hand; and he has been requested to 
take immediate steps for dispersing and capturing the insurgents, 
and for putting down the rebellion. 

3^. In communicating these orders to this Government, the 
President in Council has requested that the Lieutenant-Governor 
would instruct the civil officers of the several divisions to com- 
municate with the Major-General, and to afford him every in- 
formation and assistance in carrying into effect the line of 
operations he may decide upon. 

^th. In a subsequent communication, the President in Council 
has explained that it was not intended by the above-quoted in- 
structions to General Lloyd, that the military should act indepen- 
dently of the civil power against our own subjects, but simply 
that the nature of the military operations necessary for dispersing 
and capturing the insurgents, and for putting down the rebellion, 
should be entirely in the hands of the military commanders. It 
is stated also that the civil authorities have still power to act with 
the civil means at their disposal, and that the only change in- 
tended to be made is in transferring the power each civil officer 

VOL. T. 2 G 


had over the movements of the troops to a miHtary officer of 
experience, who, as far as the miHtary are concerned, is charged 
with the operations necessary for quelhng the insurrection. The 
President in Council considers, it is added, that the civil autho- 
rities should abstain from ordering out troops except in cases of 
sudden emergency, but that they should keep the military officers, 
particularly the officer in command in the district, fully informed 
on all points connected with the state of the country and the 
movements of the rebels, and offer such suggestions as may occur 
to them connected with the general objects in view. 

^th. Since General Lloyd's appointment it has also seemed 
desirable to the President in Council to appoint Colonel Bird, 
with the position of a brigadier, to the special command of the 
troops employed in Beerbhoom and Bancoorah districts. This 
officer is instructed to take immediate measures, in concert with 
the civil officers, for dispersing and capturing the insurgents wher- 
ever they may be, and for putting down the rebellion. He is in- 
formed that Mr. Loch at Munglepore, and yourself at Sooree, will 
afford him every information and assistance ; and he is requested 
to act in concert with Mr. Loch and yourself in carrying out the 
line of operations necessary to suppress the insurrection. 

6th. The Lieutenant-Governor has only to add to the above 
instructions the expression of earnest hope that you yourself, and 
all the civil officers subordinate to you, will in every possible way 
aid and promote the operations of the troops. Your attention 
should more particularly be directed to procuring efficient and 
trustworthy guides for the troops, and to providing them with 
carriage and supplies. Orders have some days since been issued 
to the magistrates of all the surrounding districts, urging them 
to procure as many elephants as possible, and forward them into 
Beerbhoom and Bhaugulpore ; and (a number) have already 
been sent up direct from Calcutta. Also, as soon as it shall be 
. directed at what places detachments of troops are to be posted, 
you should see that every exertion is made to afford good shelter 
both for officers and men ; and special care should be taken to 
provide, as early as possible, charpoys, or some elevated plat- 
forms for the Sepoys to lie upon. (This paragraph is carelessly 
copied. W. W. H.) 

']th. You should likewise— if, as may be possible, the medical 
arrangements are not yet efficiently organized — take it upon your- 

Appx. K.] on the SANTAL INSURRECTION. 467 

self to see that the officer in command of every detached body 
of troops is furnished with a few simple medicines, particularly 
quinine, with brief instructions as to the quantities to be given. 

Wi. The Lieutenant-Governor is desirous to receive reports 
from you of the progress of affairs as frequently as possible. 

()th. You will communicate the above orders to the several 
officers subordinate to you who are employed in the disturbed 

No. II. — Instructions from the Commissioner to Magistrates to 
offer Pardon^ dated i^t/i Atigtcsi 1855. 

Sir,— ...... 

2d. You will be good enough to promulgate amongst the 
Santal population, by every means in your power, copies of the 
enclosed proclamation; and the name of every one appearing 
before you to make submission should be entered in a book 
exhibiting the following particulars. (A schedule enclosed.) 

Zd. To all who tender their submission a certificate in the 
accompanying form should be given, and the accompanying 
Moochoolika {i.e. bond) should be signed by them. 

No. III. — The Proclamation of Pardon. 

Inasmuch as it appears that amongst the Santals, who have 
risen in rebellion against the Government, plundering and de- 
vastating the country and opposing the troops, there are many 
who see the folly and iniquity of their proceedings, and are 
desirous pf being pardoned and resuming their former quiet hfe, 
notice is hereby given, that the Government, ever anxious for 
the welfare of its subjects though led away by counsels of bad 
men, will freely pardon all Santals who may within ten days 
appear before any constituted authority and tender their submis- 
sion, always excepting those who shall be proved to have been 
principal instigators and leaders of the insurrection, and those 
who shall be proved to have been principally concerned in the 
perpetration of any murder. As soon as complete submission is 
shown, all well-grounded complaints preferred by the Santals will 
be fully inquired into. But, on the other hand, all insurgents 
remaining in opposition to Government after the issue of this 
proclamation, will be visited with the promptest and severest 


No. IV. — Letter from the Magistrate of Beerbhoom to the Commis- 
sioner of Burdwan Division, dated 24M September 1855. 

During the past fortnight, upwards of thirty villages have 
been plundered and burned by the insurgents in Thannas Oper-. 
bundah and Nangoolea. The whole of the country, from Lorojore, 
four miles west of Nuggur, to within a short distance of Deoghur, 
is in their hands. The Dawks (mails) are stopped, and the inha- 
bitants have deserted their villages, and fled. They are divided 
into two large bodies : one encamped at Raksadangal, ten miles 
north of the Operbandah Thannah in Zillah Bhaugalpore ; and 
the other at Teelaboonie, six miles west of Soory, and also in 
Bhaugalpore, but on the confines of Tannah Nangoolea ; and 
their numbers average, as nearly as we can ascertain, from 12,000 
to 14,000, and are receiving augmentations from all quarters. 

2d. A party of about 3000 of the Raksadangal Santals, led 
by Mocheea Kosnjola, Rama and Soondra Manjhees, encamped 
near Operbandah on the afternoon of the i6th inst., and on the 
following day plundered and burnt the Thannah and village. 
The Darogah and Burkundazes remained at their post till the 
last moment ; but seeing the overwhelming numbers of their 
assailants, and that resistance on their part must be useless, they 
retreated, and the Darogah contrived to escape with great diffi- 
culty via Shahna and Afzulpore, and arrived here on the 2 2d 
with only the clothes on his back. He had heard some days 
before that the Santals intended attacking the Thannah, and had 
sent all the records, etc., to Deoghur for security, and. also ap- 
plied to the officer commanding the detachment there for assist- 
ance ; but the latter, owing to the distance and dense jungle en 
route, declined to send troops to his aid. On informing Mr. 
Ward of the circumstances, he told me that detachments of troops 
were to be sent forthwith from Raneegunge to Jumterra in 
Thannah Shahna, to Operbandah, and to Afzulpore, to be sta- 
tioned there until the military force can take the field against the 
Santals after the rains are over ; and I have just heard that the 
detachment has arrived at the'former place, which will suffice for 
the protection of Thannah Shahna, in the jurisdiction of which 
no plunder has yet been committed ; but the Santals are now 
assembling with the intention of joining the rebels. Until troops 
are stationed at Operbandha, everything must remain in the pre- 

Appx. K.] on the SANTAL INSURRECTION. 469 

sent state of anarchy and confusion ; but directly they arrive, I 
shall send the police back to the Thannah, and set the Dawk 
(mail) going again. At present it is impossible, as Rama Manjhee, 
with 200 men, has taken up his position in the jungle near Haldi- 
gurh Hill, and waylays and plunders eveiything that attempts to 
pass that way. The absence of a civil officer at Deoghur is 
greatly to be regretted at the present juncture, when his services 
would be of so much value ; but I have already brought this to 
your notice in a former letter. 

2,d. The gang of from 5000 to 7000 Santals, under .Seeroo 
Manjhee, who had taken Sooleah Takoor at Teelabooney, have 
strengthened their position by earthworks, and dug tanks there. 
They have also made preparations for celebrating the Doorgah 
Pooja, for which purpose they have carried off and detained two 
Brahmins from one of the villages plundered by them in Thannah 
Nangoolea ; and spies who came in yesterday say that they are 
only waiting for the Raksadangal gang to join them, before 
advancing to attack Soory ; but I think it improbable that they 
will venture to attack the station under present circumstances. 
They sent us in what is called in their language a ' dahra,' or 
'missive' — viz. a twig of the Sal tree with three leaves on it, each 
leaf signifying a day that is to elapse before their arrival — a few 
days ago, which was brought by one of the Deoghur Dak runners, 
whom they seized and sent back for the purpose. The colonel 
commanding has taken the precaution of stationing piquets at 
different points on the north and west side of the station, which 
would be most exposed in the event of an attack ; and I under- 
stand that Seyt Gillan and his Burkundazes, whom I placed at 
the disposal of the special Commissioner when here, at the 
latter's request, is to be sent to Nuggur, where the residents are 
in a state of great alarm, and many have deserted their houses. 

No. V. — Ero/ii the Civil Officer to the Collector of Beerbhooiii, 
Raneegtmge, the X2,th November 1855. 

Sir, — Martial law having been proclaimed in the disturbed 
districts, my functions have ceased. Should you wish to com- 
municate with me on any subject connected with this insurrection, 
which might require to be settled as having originated in this 
office, I shall feel obHged by your doing so as soon as possible, 
directing to me at HoogWy. 



Revenue, 1789. 

Current Rupees. 

Land Revenue of Beerbhoom, .... 611,321 
Land Revenue of Bishenpore, .... 386,70? 
Miscellaneous Revenue, ..... 15,000 

Total Current Rs., 1,013,028 
Or, ^101,302, i6s. 

Expenditure, 1789. 

Sicca Rupees. 

General Charges for collecting and remitting the Revenue, ") 33,020 

Collector's Private Commission, . . . . j 10,900 

Civil Justice, ...... 6,772 

Criminal Justice, including Rs. 400 for killing tigers ; 

Rs. 400 for prisoners' diet ; and Rs. 36 for charity, . 3,000 

Total Sicca Rs., 52,692 
About ^5400 stg. 


Receipts, ...... ^101,302 16 o 

Cost of Administration, .... 5,400 o o 

Net profit to Government, . ^95,902 16 o 









Land revenue, . 


Value of stamps refunded, . 


Fines, .... 


Income tax refunded. 


Fees, .... 


Charges for remitting trea- 

Excise, .... 


sure, including boxes 

Sale proceeds of opium, 


covered with canvas, 

Income tax, 


packing, etc.. 


Sale of stamps, . 


Charges for destruction of 

Receipt stamps, 


wild animals, . 


Penalties for infringement 

Travelling allowance of 

of stamp laws, 


officers, etc., . 


Collections of resumed 

Collectorate charges, . 


police lands, . 


Excise do.. 
Income tax do.. 




Charges for Stamp depart- 

ment, .... 


Education department, 


Charges of Judges' Court, . 


Post-office department, 


Charges of Magistrates' 
Court, .... 

Grand total, 



or ;^92,36i 10 

Jail charges, 


Deduct expenditure, 

or ;^24,869 2 


Salary of the civil surgeon. 
Dispensary allowance of 


do., .... 
Pensions, .... 


Net profit, 



or;^67,492 8 

Political pensions. 


Police department, 


Education department, 


Post-office department. 
Total, .... 



or ;^24,869 2 

' This exhibits the estimated revenue and government expenditure in Beer- 
bhoom alone, Bishenpore being now included in another district. 


A TABLE SHOWING the intrinsic Value of the following 
Species of Rupees current in Bengal, Bahar, and 
Orissa, compared with the Sicca Rupee, from Assayes 
BY the Calcutta Mint in October 1792. 

Species of Rupee. 

1 . Siccas of Moorshedabad, per Sicca weight 

2. Siccas of Patna, 

3. Siccas of Dacca, 

4. Pholy Sonats, . 

5. Delhi Mahomet Shai, 

6. Money Surat, large, 

7. Benares Sicca, 

8. Bissun Arcot, . 

9. Sonats Sabic, . 

10. Sonats Duckie, 

1 1 . Forshee Arcots, 

12. French Arcots, 

13. Patanea Arcots, 

14. Aurungzebe Arcots, 

15. Gursaul, 

16. Madras Arcots, new, 

1 7. Muslipatam Arcots, 

18. Shardar Arcots, 

19. Patna Sonatts, old, . 

20. Benares Rupees, old, 

21. Madras Arcots, old, 

22. Furruckabad Rupees, 

23. Jehanjee Arcots, 

24. Chunta Arcots, 

25. Calcutta Arcots, 

26. Moorshedabad Arcots, 

27. Old Arcots, 

28. Dutch Arcots, 

29. Surat Arcots, . 

30. Benares Frisolie, 

31. Viziery Rupees, 

32. Narrany half rupee, 

Intrinsic Value, 

compared with 

the Sicca Rupees. 


O O 
O O 


































































[For Bengal Coins, see Appendix N.] 


Gold and Silver Weis:hts. 



gr. Troy. 

I Pagoda is ... 



9iV do. is . 


8 do., I dollar weight, 



100 dollars, .... 




100 Venetian ducats, 



100 gubbers, at a medium, . 




I rupee, .... 



100 do., ... 




I Madras pagoda weighs 2 dw. \\ gr. 

; or, E 


standard, 20 

car. ^5* gr. ; country touch, 8f ; China, 865. 
I Allumgeet pagoda, i dw. 22 gr. ; or, English standard, 23 car. 

2^ gr. ; country touch, 9^ ; China, 98|. 
80 cash make i fanam. 

36 fanams, i pagoda-poise. 2 dw. 4 gr. is 8625 matts fine. 
100 Madras rupees weight, 37 oz. 5 dw. 20 gr., and are better than 

standard, \\\ dw. 
100 Bombay do. are better than standard, \o\ dw. 

S U R A T. 

Gold and Silver Weights. 

I Chowle is i rutta. 

3 rutta make i voll, .... 
32 voll make i tola, .... 
82A- do. make 2 tolas and i8i volls, or 

oz. dw.. gr. Troy. 

o o 5M 

7 1 8n" 

1 o 




9^ vol! = I Venetian weight, 

loo do. = 28 tola 29 voll, .... 
73 voll = I dollar weight, .... 
100 do. weight, 228 tola 4 voll, 
31 tola = very near .... 

The seer for coral = 18 great pice, or 27 common 
pice weight, ..... 
Do. for musk, ..... 

The Surat seer = 30 pice, and weighs at a medium. 

I Spanish' dollar full weight, 73 volls, = 

100 do. do., 

100 ounces Mexico dollars are 

4 pice make . 

16 annas, or 64 pice, make . 

13I silver rupees are equal to 


dw. gr. Troy. 

















Rupees. Annas. Pice 















r Venetian = 

t gubber = 

I gold moor or rupee, 

100 rees make 

400 do. make 



Rupees. Annas. Pice. 

3 14 o 
3 12 6 
13 8 o 
I quarter. 
I rupee. 

80 Leader rees are 
5 tangos. 

GO A. 


I silver tango. 

I pardao or xeraphin. 


Gold Weights. 

16 Miams make I boucall, equal to troy weight, 
20 boucalls make i catty. 


02. dw. 

I 9 
29 16 

4 Doits = 
6 stivers, 

I stiver. 
I skillinsf. 



Appx. O.] list of coins AND WEIGHTS. 475 

8 skillings, . . • • . i rix dollar. 

I duccatoon is current for . . -13 skillings. 

I English ci'own piece, . • . lo do. 

I Bombay or Surat rupee, ... 5 do. 

I Madras rupee (though of the value with > /Because they 

Bombay), . . . . S ^ ^°' \ are" not so 

•' '' < broad as the 

I Arcot rupee (though but i per cent, worse ) rln I Bombay or 

than Surat), . . • _ f 4 ClO. ^ Surat rupee. 



i6 Tarr or viss make . . . i fanam, called gallee. 

5 fananis make . . . . i rupee. 

I Spanish dollar full weight is accounted i\ rupees, but pass in the 
bazaar only from lo fanams, 4 tarr to loi fanams. 


/// Pyepai'atioiiy 



A Comparative Dictionary of upzuards of One Hundred 
Aboriginal Dialects, compiled from the Hodgson Lists 
and Vernacular MSS., with a Preliminary Disserta- 
tioji. By W. W. Hunter, B.A., M.R.A.S., of the 
Bengal Civil Service, i vol. 8vo. 





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